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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castille’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
Gregory Barrett
“Realpolitik” in Berlin: Merkel Fawns Over Kissinger
Louis Yako
The Road to Understanding Syria Goes Through Iraq
Graham Peebles
Grenfell Tower: A Disaster Waiting to Happen
Ezra Rosser
The Poverty State of Mind and the State’s Obligations to the Poor
Ron Jacobs
Andrew Jackson and the American Psyche
Pepe Escobar
Fear and Loathing on the Afghan Silk Road
Andre Vltchek
Why I Reject Western Courts and Justice
Lawrence Davidson
On Hidden Cultural Corruptors
Christopher Brauchli
The Routinization of Mass Shootings in America
Missy Comley Beattie
The Poor Need Not Apply
Martin Billheimer
White Man’s Country and the Iron Room
Joseph Natoli
What to Wonder Now
Tom Clifford
Hong Kong: the Chinese Meant Business
Thomas Knapp
The Castile Doctrine: Cops Without Consequences
Nyla Ali Khan
Borders Versus Memory
Binoy Kampmark
Death on the Road: Memory in Tim Winton’s Shrine
Tony McKenna
The Oily Politics of Unity: Owen Smith as Northern Ireland Shadow Secretary
Nizar Visram
If North Korea Didn’t Exist US Would Create It
John Carroll Md
At St. Catherine’s Hospital, Cite Soleil, Haiti
Kenneth Surin
Brief Impressions of the Singaporean Conjucture
Paul C. Bermanzohn
Trump: the Birth of the Hero
Jill Richardson
Trump on Cuba: If Obama Did It, It’s Bad
Olivia Alperstein
Our President’s Word Wars
REZA FIYOUZAT
Useless Idiots or Useful Collaborators?
Clark T. Scott
Parallel in Significance
Louis Proyect
Hitler and the Lone Wolf Assassin
Julian Vigo
Theresa May Can’t Win for Losing
Richard Klin
Prog Rock: Pomp and Circumstance
Charles R. Larson
Review: Malin Persson Giolito’s “Quicksand”
David Yearsley
RIP: Pomp and Circumstance
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail