Thursday, June 21, 2007

Heads in the Pickle Jar --- U.S. Besieged by WTO Compensation Claims

Canada Cal here, checkin' in for Haley---

You know, from my seat here in Thunder Bay (that's Ontario, just above Lake Superior) just staring down at you poor American prisoners, it seems pretty funny that you don't realize that the World Trade Organization mess with Antigua & Barbuda is a textbook case of why the rest of the world hates the good ol' U.S. of A. in so many ways. Here in Canada we're resigned to it to a certain extent, but that doesn't mean it's right.

The problem is, it's grown ever worse in these last six years when the radical Bushies have been in control --- it's been a case of us ('us' meaning the American religious right) against the world, and the end justifies the means. That means the rules don't count, because that right-wing nut factory thinks their higher calling justifies everything else, including the trashing of one of the world's greatest democracies. We're a lot more aware of your politics than you guys are of what goes on in other countries. And so we see something like your Vice President quite willing to claim that his office isn't part of the Executive branch, just so he can keep on lying and cheating and stealing and keeping his dirty secrets hidden that much longer. (Very much reminiscent of Spiro T. Agnew, by the way.)

And so we laugh. We laugh at your stupidity. For letting someone like that get into a position of power in the first place. Cheney's the type who wants power for power's own sake, you know, and that's the most dangerous politician of all.

Smartest thing your President ever did was to put that guy in as second-in-command. Having a nutcase like Cheney on deck is one hell of a life insurance policy, because every country has their own kook population, right- or left-leaning.

Which brings us back to the WTO and this other little, more poker-themed mess. It looks like several countries are lining up to take their expected shots at the United States in filing compensation claims against the U.S. in retaliation for the U.S.'s unilateral -- and agreement-breaking -- removal of online gambling from its WTO GATS commitments. The European Union was first to file ahead of the June 22 deadline, but it was quickly followed by Antigua and Barbuda, to no one's surprise. More followed, including India, Japan and Costa Rica, while other countries such as China and Canada, a place I'm sorta fond of, had already listed themselves as 'parties of interest' in Antigua's initial complaint. I just say, pile it on!

But the question becomes, what will really become of it? Indications are that the U.S. will remain militant, come hell or high water. As I think you guys read about some time back, the U.S. Trade Representative to the WTO, John Veroneau, is one of those stauch anti-gambling types that was snuck into his job by Bill Frist, probably attached at the bottom of a list of hires for the Senate security detail, knowing Frist's style.

It's a combination of far-right wackiness and big-business protectionism at work, which sorta describes the last six years of U.S. history in a lot of ways. Antigua has filed for $3.4 billion annually, the EU's complaint isn't framed the same way but hints at wanting tens of billions in 'alternative' market concessions, and late-to-the-party Costa Rica probably has as much of a financial claim as Costa Rica, if not more.

Antigua's also been negotiating with the U.S. in secret. First they met with Barney Frank to get the lay of the land in terms of that bill (which ain't going anywhere in the near future), and now they've met with President Bush, with Bush now acknowledging that, "Oh, yeah, this little unimportant island seems to mad at us about something." Here's the Antigua Sun's take on the meeting:

Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer raised the country’s Internet dispute with the United States at during the meeting between Caricom leaders and President George W. Bush.

Prime Minister Spencer spoke of Antigua & Barbuda’s desire to settle the matter with the United States over the Internet Gaming dispute which the country has won at every stage at the WTO.

It was also pointed out to President Bush that by today Antigua & Barbuda will make application to the Dispute Settlement Body of the World Trade Organisation for certain remedies because of the US non-compliance with its ruling.

PM Spencer noted that President Bush said he was aware of the details of the dispute but was pleased that the matter was raised and pledged to look into the matter in an effort to reach a resolution.

"Pledged to look into the matter" means nothing, of course, but it's the first indication Bush has given that the situation actually exists, since it was painfully omitted from mention during the signing ceremony for the Port Security Act to which the UIGEA was secretly attached.

A Wall Street report from a couple of days ago, examining the dispute, lays out the truth: As long as a Republican administration remains in the White House, the UIGEA is unlikely to be overtuned or modified. That truth's been obvious all along. For you guys, the only short-term hope are things like that lawsuit filed against the government seeking an injunction against implementation of the UIGEA. Actions like that may be longshots, but getting the UIGEA tossed would prevent something similar from being passed until your next round of elections, when you'd have a chance to toss a few more of those nut cases out.

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