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Antigua Gains More Support Over Internet Gambling WTO Issue

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In the 28th yearly CARICOM summit that has been going on since Sunday the agenda was weighted towards international trade. Of particular importance at the summit was Antigua & Barbuda's issue over Internet gambling with the United States.

CARICOM is composed of nations of the Caribbean and West Indies and include Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad & Tobago.

At the summit nations expressed their strong support with Antigua over the Internet gambling matter.

Chairman of the US Congress' Ways and Means Committee Charles Rangel also joined Caribbean leaders at the summit.

Minister of Finance and the Economy, Dr. Errol Cort, announced at the end of last month's conference on the Caribbean in Washington that Rangel would attend the meeting and sure enough, he did.

After last month's conference, Dr. Cort described Rangel as "very sympathetic to the Caribbean region" and supportive of Antigua & Barbuda's position on market access for the Internet gambling industry.

Rangel was welcomed as a "friend of the Caribbean" to the meeting in Barbados by Caricom Secretary General Edwin Carrington and as "a vital partner to the region" by incoming Chairman of Caricom and Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur.

According to Arthur, Rangel's presence at the meeting would facilitate dialogue between the region and the US, building on the Washington Conference.

These talks, he said, would "chart the path for a strengthened relationship with Congress, and a modern, vibrant, and mutually beneficial partnership with the United States."

After the summit today Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer of Antigua and Barbuda spoke to reporters.

"Regional leaders have thrown their full support behind us, and were calling on the U.S. to respect the World Trade Organizations recent ruling on the issue," he said.

"This matter has been fully ventilated at the conference and the position of CARICOM is that Antigua and Barbuda should be fully supported by CARICOM in this matter because it should have serious implications for the region going forward as we seek to develop the financial services sector in the region," Baldwin continued.

The WTO ruled in favor of Antigua and Barbuda earlier in the year, citing that the US position was contrary to its General Services Agreement on Trade Services (GATS) commitment and instructed the United States to bring its laws into conformity with its trade agreement.

The Spencer Administration has filed formal trade sanctions against the U.S., demanding $3.44 billion compensation for failing to open its market to foreign operators, causing the loss of 4,000 jobs and a lost opportunity to earn millions of dollars in foreign exchange. The compensation is expected by means of the loosening of trademark infringement restrictions, which would allow the twin island nation to sell copyrighted Microsoft, Sony, Disney, and other US products for just pennies on the dollar.

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