- JOHN’S, Antigua: Minister of Finance and the Economy, Dr Errol Cort, will lead Antigua and Barbuda’s delegation to the February 21-22 hearing by the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization of an appeal by the United States against the findings of the WTO Panel, which ruled in favour of Antigua and Barbuda in the now famous “Internet gaming case.”
“The hearing is the end result of a process that was triggered when the US filed a “Notice of Appeal” with the WTO in early January, which they are allowed to do under the rules within sixty days of the publication of the Panel’s Report,” said Minister Cort.
“Their action then set in motion a series of submissions by our legal team and theirs to the WTO Appellate Body, which has appointed three of its members to hear the oral arguments from both sides on February 21-22,” added the Minister. He further noted that, in addition to Antigua and Barbuda and the US, other WTO members have taken an active part in the proceedings as “third participants.”
While the final decision of the three-member Panel is of course unknown, the country’s gaming officials are very confident that the gaming industry in Antigua and Barbuda operates within a legal and administrative framework that can serve as a model for other countries.
“Despite the huge financial costs, our authorities have strengthened the mechanisms for regulating the international financial services sector and bolstered our money laundering laws,” said Kaye MacDonald, Director of Gaming at the Financial Services Regulatory Commission’s Division of Gaming. “Antigua and Barbuda has also met the deadlines for the security systems of its ports, as mandated by the US Patriot Act,” she added.
According to one of its legal Bandarq adviser, at the oral hearing the three-member Panel will allow the two parties, Antigua and Barbuda and the United States, to make presentations. The Panel may then elect to ask both parties questions in response to their presentations or their written submissions. This could last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, and the Panel could also request both parties to submit written responses to the questions.
After the hearing, the Panel will issue its decision at some point within the next 30-45 days. If Antigua and Barbuda prevails on appeal, it will present the final report of the Appellate Body to the wider WTO membership for adoption. At this point the determination is final, and the US will be expected to conform the relevant laws on Internet gaming as the Appellate Body may recommend. This will be followed by a process of ensuring that the US does what it is required to do.
In addition to the Minister, the delegation to the oral hearing will also include Antigua and Barbuda’s Permanent Representative to the WTO, Dr. John W. Ashe; the Deputy Permanent Representative to the WTO, Mr. Carl Roberts; Director of Gaming, Ms Kaye MacDonald; and a legal team headed by Attorney-at-Law, Mark Mendel.