By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The failure to enforce its rulings on trade disputes is among the “biggest criticisms” that can be levelled against the World Trade Organisation (WTO), a Bahamian arbitrator has charged.
Theominique Nottage, chair of the Young Arbitrators (CIArb Bahamas), while addressing the seventh annual Arbitration and Investment Summit, said Antigua and Barbuda’s dispute with the United States exposed the WTO’s lack of clout when dealing with its larger members.
“That would be one of the biggest criticisms of the value of the WTO dispute resolution system; that there is just not enough effort on the part of the WTO dispute settlement body to ensure the compliance and enforcement of rulings when it comes to developed countries losing against developing countries,” she said.
“However, notwithstanding that criticism, independent of any issues that the WTO members have had with the current dispute resolution system, they still see some value in the system. In the proposals for reformation that have been made by developing countries, none has suggested the termination of the system.”
Critics of the WTO have often cited the 15 year-long dispute between the US and Antigua and Barbuda over internet gambling as evidence that the WTO lacks “teeth” to enforce its rulings, and cannot ensure fair play for smaller nations such as The Bahamas which is bidding to become a full member by next year.
The dispute between the two countries stemmed from the US government’s efforts to prohibit Americans from gambling via online websites domiciled in Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua and Barbuda won the right to suspend its obligations to the US in respect of intellectual property rights to recover $2m annually, but reportedly has not acted on that authorisation in the hopes of reaching a fair settlement.