Dan Becker’s post Trans Pacific Partnership: A new Constitution gained a lot of traction because once again the public media is beginning to pay attention to trade policy. Angry Bear has carried a number of posts on the World Trade Organization intent and structure…here are several on the particular issue between Antigua and the US. The issue is not earthshaking in amounts of money, but offers a look at the potential conflicts that can play out between nations. Perhaps coming later further exploration of the World Trade Organization (from past Angry Bear posts) will be warranted.
From The Huffington Post by Lori Wallach comes this note:
On Monday the World Trade Organization (WTO) officially authorized Caribbean nation Antigua to sell $21 million in “pirated” U.S.-copyrighted music, films and computer programs in retaliation for the United States failing to comply with a 2005 WTO order to allow online gambling here. Say what? (And, no, this news was not sourced from a parody in The Onion.)
The case is an illustrated guide to much of what is wrong with the WTO. And, it should spotlight the lunacy of Obama administration plans to expand this dangerous “trade” agreement model via the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “free trade” agreement. More on that later. Let’s tour what is now a full coop of WTO chickens that have come home to roost on this WTO case.
First, the backstory: in 2003, Antigua filed a case at the WTO claiming that U.S. laws banning Internet gambling violated WTO rules. The case, which some say was in fact the brainchild of an American attorney, Mark Mandel, who is handling the WTO litigation for Antigua, was joined by the European Union and other countries with major gambling industries. Antigua won a final ruling in 2005 and yesterday’s “sanctions” announcement was retaliation for the United States failing to change its domestic laws to comply with the WTO.
Why does the WTO have anything to say as to whether or not the U.S. Congress can ban Internet gambling, especially when the ban applies to domestic and foreign firms alike? Unlike past trade agreements, which focused on cutting tariffs, the WTO imposes expansive constraints on signatory governments’ non-trade policies and establishes new corporate rights. The WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) limits how the U.S. government may regulate foreign service firms operating here and cross-border “trade” in services too. The WTO’s Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement requires countries to provide expanded monopoly patent and copyright terms. (That’s how U.S. drug patent monopolies got expanded from 17 to 20 years in 1994 when Congress OK’d U.S. WTO accession, overruling decades of congressional opposition to such patent extensions and costing us billions in higher drug prices, pocketed by WTO booster Big PhRMA.)