U.S. Online Gambling Negotiations with WTO Questioned

The chairman of two influential House of Representatives committees had a message for the Bush administration yesterday. With WTO sanctions still looming they suggested, in an article from Reuters that, “ that the U.S. should explore legislation to roll back a U.S. ban on Internet gambling instead of paying compensation to the European Union and other trading partners.”

In a letter to Susan Swab, the U.S. Trade Representative, Barney Frank (House Financial Services Committee Chairman), John Conyers (House Judiciary Committee Chairman) and six others openly criticized the handling of the online gambling negotiations with WTO members.

In the letter it said, “Your agency has chosen not to consult with Congress, but instead to take what we view as a drastic step which could have significant consequences for the whole WTO (World Trade Organization) system.”

The WTO is currently awaiting the results from an arbitration panel concerning Antigua and Barbuda and the U.S. faces an estimated $100 billion in trade sanctions all total. Currently the U.S. is negotiating with the European Union, India, Japan, Costa Rica, Macao, Canada and Australia and has till mid December to come up with a trade compensation package.

It is a concern for some lawmakers that the current WTO and online gambling situation could cause serious damage to U.S. credibility overseas and Chairman Conyers warned that,

“Continuing with the same old failed policies for the sake of feel-good politics doesn’t make sense.”

It is a concern to lawmakers that the compensation could have negative effects of the U.S. economy and that it is setting a precedence for other countries to withdraw commitments from the WTO like the U.S. has over internet gambling when those commitments are deemed “inconvenient or politically difficult.”

The Bush administration has worked with Congress many times in the past when the WTO has ruled against the U.S. and there are many questions now why the administration is not involving Congress during these negotiations.

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