Tiny Caribbean nation being bullied by the US

Bert Wilkinson | 10/20/2016, 9:33 a.m.

A tiny, tourism dependent nation in the Eastern Caribbean is openly accusing the U.S. of persistently bullying it into submission, largely because the island took Washington to the international trade court and won in a bitter and ongoing row over internet gambling.

Officials say the U.S. is clearly smarting from Antigua’s win and appears to see the row as a “David”-sized country inexplicably defeating and apparently embarrassing and humiliating one of “Goliath” proportions, so it has no intention of honoring any ruling in Antigua’s favor.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne says the Geneva-based World Trade Organization has long ruled that Antigua had defeated the U.S. at dispute resolution after the U.S. had destroyed Antigua’s online gaming system. 

Internet gaming had employed more than 5,000 people and had brought in revenues of more than $1 billion annually. Antigua fell on very hard times when Washington pulled the plug and thousands of workers were sent home. Some estimates put the revenue loss figure at $3.4 billion per year.

At the center of the dispute is the WTO’s 2005 ruling that the U.S. had violated international trading rules by unilaterally banning internet gaming sites and banning Americans from playing online. Many of the American investors were prosecuted and jailed.

The move devastated the island’s economy just as it was trying to move away from dependence only on tourism. The WTO had also ruled that the U.S. should pay Antigua $21 million annually in compensation for its loss of revenue. Washington has flatly refused to do so and has rebuffed nearly every effort by the island nation of approximately 100,000 people to even talk about payment, much less to receive a payment check.

“They do not respect our sovereignty,” said Browne. “They are not interested, and nothing that we can say will make a difference.”

He used the occasion of a Chinese government reception to spew a little venom on the U.S., saying that authorities there do not know what else to do to make the U.S. comply with the WTO’s ruling that Antigua was wronged by Washington’s strong arm tactics.

He also made the point that other global powers such as China are much more respectful of the sovereignty of small nations. Not the U.S.

Aware that Americans have no intention of complying, the WTO gave Antigua an additional win, ruling that the country has the right to not respect American copyright and intellectual property laws until the debt is paid. Antigua can sell up to $200 million in U.S. intellectual products on the basis of the $21 million in annual unpaid money from Washington so far. 

Browne stated that he is unsure if American authorities had perceived the move to the WTO “as a hostile act,” noting that at the time Antigua was host to an American military base and a relay station for the Voice of America.

“We had no choice but to go to the WTO,” Browne said. “That is the recourse open to all countries that have a trade dispute, and it is a recourse used by the U.S. more than any other nation. It is the mechanism for the peaceful and legal settlement of trade disputes according to rules which bind 163 countries around the world. We also hosted an additional U.S. military base. U.S. tourists and investors were then—as they are now—warmly welcomed in our country.”