Antigua, U.S. Mum on Future of Trade Talks (Update 1)

22 January 2009
Includes comment from the Remote Gambling Association.

Because the governments of Antigua and the United States were unable to reach a settlement this week over the United States' withdrawal from an international trade agreement, Antiguan officials must now decide whether to renew talks with President Barack Obama's incoming administration or refer back to the World Trade Organization.

Should Antigua decide to reopen negotiations, it will likely do so with Ron Kirk, Mr. Obama's pick for trade representative. Mr. Kirk, a former mayor of Dallas, Texas, and friend of Mr. Obama's, according to The New York Times, is currently awaiting a Senate confirmation hearing though a date has not been set.

While Mr. Kirk awaits his hearing -- which could take as little as a week if things go smoothly, or longer if there are objections -- Peter Allgeier, the deputy trade representative, is serving as the acting trade representative. Once Mr. Kirk is confirmed, he could begin negotiations with Antigua immediately, Nao Matsukata, a senior policy advisor at Alston & Bird, told IGamingNews Thursday.

Clive Hawkswood, the chief executive of the Remote Gambling Association, which is fighting its own battle against the United States over discriminatory Internet gambling laws, spoke to IGamingNews on Friday about Antigua's long-running struggle with the United States.

"There have been so many false dawns for Antigua that it is now unwise to get too optimistic about the outcome from any of these meetings," Mr. Hawkswood said. "At some point a definitive solution must be found, but we have all learnt from experience that the U.S. does not feel under any pressure to push things towards a conclusion."

Mark L. Mendel, counsel for Antigua, and Gretchen Hamel, a spokeswoman for the trade representative, did not return phone calls Thursday.

Emily Swoboda is the senior staff writer at IGamingNews. She lives in St. Louis, Mo.