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WTO approves Antigua sanctions on US

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GENEVA, Jan 28 AFP

January 29 2013, 04:10AM

The World Trade Organisation has given the green light for Antigua and Barbuda to impose sanctions on the United States in a long-running dispute over online gambling.

Antigua and Barbuda, a tiny Caribbean nation, complained in 2003 that the US ban on internet gambling violated WTO rules, and won.

Antigua, with a population of about 80,000, has long been a centre for offshore internet gaming and insisted that the US ban on US residents placing wagers with companies based in the country was an unfair trade restriction.

A WTO arbitration ruled in 2007 that the country could seek sanctions on US intellectual property, by for instance lifting copyright on films and music, of up to $US21 million ($A20 million) a year.

Although that was a far cry from the $US3.4 billion Antigua had requested - an amount Washington at the time argued was "patently excessive" and more than three times the size of the country's economy - the United States baulked.

Washington has since then been trying to get Antigua to instead accept compensation, according to a source close to the matter, but the country refused and received the final go-ahead on Monday from the WTO's Dispute Settlement Board to impose the sanctions.

In a long statement on Monday, Antigua vowed to do so "in a reasonable and responsible manner".

The United States, meanwhile, insisted sanctions against its intellectual property would amount to "theft" and "government authorised piracy".