FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Taking on the Big Bully at the WTO

by NORMAN GIRVAN

Remember that great story you learnt at Sunday School, about the little guy with the slingshot who took down the big bully with a single stone to a part of his anatomy where it really hurts? Well, its happening right here in the Caribbean.

In the 21st century Caribbean version of the timeless Biblical story, the little guy is Antigua and Barbuda; the big bully is the United States; the slingshot is the World Trade Organisation and the stone is international trade law.

And the place that really hurts could be the multi-billion dollar US music and film industry.

On January 28 the WTO  Disputes Settlement Body agreed to a petition from Antigua and Barbuda to suspend application of US Intellectual Property laws in retaliation for the failure of the United States to comply with WTO rulings on the illegality of US prohibitions of Internet gambling (see following story).

The US actions have devastated what used to be a thriving offshore gaming industry that earned Antigua and Barbuda thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in government revenues.

“The irony is rich, rich, rich”, Ms. Lori Wallach, a leading consumer rights advocate in the United States, is quoted as saying by the New York Times.

How so? Well back in 1994, when the WTO was being set up, it was the United States who insisted on the inclusion of the cross-retaliation provision that Antigua and Barbuda is now using against it.

The effect of this provision is that countries that are found to be in violation of WTO rules, and which refuse to comply with the rulings of the WTO DSB, can be punished by the aggrieved country with trade sanctions in another area of their commercial relations.

Its like telling a student that is found to be cheating in his Chemistry exam that he can’t play on the school football team, even if he is the star player—and the only thing that football and Chemistry examinations have in common is that they are both governed by school rules.

As the world’s largest economy, the United States was uniquely positioned to impose punitive trade sanctions on other WTO members, secure in the knowledge that the ability of other nations to hurt it in return was moderated by the realities of asymmetrical trade power.

The US successfully used cross-retaliation against the EU, for instance, to force  the latter to comply with WTO rulings on bananas; rulings that pretty much destroyed the banana industries in the Eastern Caribbean—so that US multinationals could get access to the EU market.

Who would have thought that the tiny nation of Antigua and Barbuda, with one of the world’s smallest economies, could hurt the economy of the United States?

After all, its economy is 1/13409th the size of the US’s. (Its easier to say that the US economy is 13,409 times that of Antigua and Barbuda’s).

But Antigua and Barbuda have found a way of hitting back. Copyright industries is one of the biggest earners for the US economy. The Internet is ubiquitous, and its power grows, exponentially, every single day. Enforcement of US copyright law by foreign countries is a major issue for the US—remember that “Warning Notice” at the beginning of the last DVD movie that you watched, threatening you with fines and imprisonment?

US officials are warning of all kinds of dire consequences. But Antigua and Barbuda officials believe that they have right—and international trade law—on their side. They are planning to use the latest DSB ruling to pressure the US into serious negotiations.

David has found the right slingshot and a stone that, if not lethal, has the potential to cause serious haemorrhage. And he is winding it up; looking Goliath square in the face; and saying he is prepared to use it, if Goliath doesn’t play by the rules.

And Goliath is fuming. But the fact is, the slingshot and the stone have been approved by the referees—and the rules were Goliath’s own idea.

Norman Girvan is a Professor Emeritus at UWI (Trinidad). He can be reached through his website.

This article originally appeared on 1804 Caribvoices.

More articles by:
July 27, 2016
Richard Moser
The Party’s Over
M. G. Piety
Smoke and Mirrors in Philadelphia
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Humiliation Games: Notes on the Democratic Convention
Arun Gupta
Bernie Sanders’ Political Revolution Splinters Apart
John Eskow
The Loneliness of the American Leftist
Guillermo R. Gil
A Metaphoric Short Circuit: On Michelle Obama’s Speech at the DNC
Norman Pollack
Sanders, Our Tony Blair: A Defamation of Socialism
Claire Rater, Carol Spiegel and Jim Goodman
Consumers Can Stop the Overuse of Antibiotics on Factory Farms
Guy D. Nave
Make America Great Again?
Sam Husseini
Why Sarah Silverman is a Comedienne
Dave Lindorff
No Crooked Sociopaths in the White House
Dan Bacher
The Hired Gun: Jerry Brown Snags Bruce Babbitt as New Point Man For Delta Tunnels
Peter Lee
Trumputin! And the DNC Leak(s)
David Macaray
Interns Are Exploited and Discriminated Against
Brett Warnke
Storm Clouds Over Philly
Ann Garrison
Rwanda, the Clinton Dynasty, and the Case of Dr. Léopold Munyakazi
Chris Zinda
Snakes of Deseret
July 26, 2016
Andrew Levine
Pillory Hillary Now
Kshama Sawant
A Call to Action: Walk Out from the Democratic National Convention!
Russell Mokhiber
The Rabble Rise Together Against Bernie, Barney, Elizabeth and Hillary
Jeffrey St. Clair
Don’t Cry For Me, DNC: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Angie Beeman
Why Doesn’t Middle America Trust Hillary? She Thinks She’s Better Than Us and We Know It
Paul Street
An Update on the Hate…
Fran Shor
Beyond Trump vs Clinton
Ellen Brown
Japan’s “Helicopter Money” Play: Road to Hyperinflation or Cure for Debt Deflation?
Richard W. Behan
The Banana Republic of America: Democracy Be Damned
Binoy Kampmark
Undermining Bernie Sanders: the DNC Campaign, WikiLeaks and Russia
Arun Gupta
Trickledown Revenge: the Racial Politics of Donald Trump
Sen. Bernard Sanders
What This Election is About: Speech to DNC Convention
David Swanson
DNC Now Less Popular Than Atheism
Linn Washington Jr.
‘Clintonville’ Reflects True Horror of Poverty in US
Deepak Tripathi
Britain in the Doldrums After the Brexit Vote
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Threats: Arbitrary Lines on Political Maps
Robert J. Gould
Proactive Philanthropy: Don’t Wait, Reach Out!
Victor Grossman
Horror and Sorrow in Germany
Nyla Ali Khan
Regionalism, Ethnicity, and Trifurcation: All in the Name of National Integration
Andrew Feinberg
The Good TPP
400 US Academics
Letter to US Government Officials Concerning Recent Events in Turkey
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Russell Mokhiber
Bernie Delegates Take on Bernie Sanders
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Andy Thayer
Letter to a Bernie Activist
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail