Thursday, April 4, 2013

Antigua’s Line In The Sand


Antigua has offered up what it is calling its final offer to U.S. negotiators. The statement was made by Dominica, currently representing Antigua and the whole of CARICOM at the WTO in Switzerland, on March 26th. This may signal the end of over a decade of arguing and negotiation between the United States an Antigua about the UIGEA. As we’ve covered ad nauseum, this is casting the United States in an awful, if not unsurprising, light.

Obviously, statements of this kind have been bandied back and forth for the entire duration of the conflict. What makes this recent pronouncement different and noteworthy is the added weight behind it. Unlike before, where Antigua was the only nation making noise, this is an official declaration on the part of CARICOM that negotiations are going nowhere. Previously, when it was just Antigua making claims of intransigence, it was a “he said/she said” situation. Now, it is a “he said/they said” situation where the U.S. is being accused of, to use a term that the young folk like, being an asshole. From the report:
Antigua and Barbuda had not seen any substantial progress on the part of the United States to comply with the DSB’s recommendations and rulings nor to reach a settlement with Antigua and Barbuda.
In essence, this is Antigua and CARICOM playing their last card. It is a threat, more or less. It is, ironically, the very same threat that the U.S. gave to Antigua a few months ago, triggering the support of CARICOM. Namely, Antigua is telling the U.S. to back down to avoid “consequences.” Unlike the U.S. to Antigua, though, Antigua can’t threaten injury to America’s reputation since the U.S. already has a horrible reputation. It really can’t get any worse.

Antigua is angling to give further weight to their threat by way of the U.N. The U.N. representative-type-guys stationed in Antigua have made a statement before the broader U.N. saying that they could, and should, endorse Antigua’s case. It must be sanctioned by the General Assembly, which is a process to be sure, but even the possibility is something that the U.S. will want to avoid at all costs. They know that they would lose, and probably lose badly.

The reasons for a near-guaranteed failure are of course manifold, and well-discussed on this website. Perhaps the most significant reason is that the WTO, much like the GATT before it, are tools for American hegemony and the U.S. has been using them as such. Back in the day — and by day, I mean post World War II — the rest of the world was so weak that they just sorta’ rolled over. Today, though, the world is mighty pissed and not so willing to simply go along to get along.

Not only has the U.S. outright ignored the WTO in the Antigua case, they have a long-running habit of doing this in all cases, which is fomenting an undercurrent of toxic anger among its partners. A surprising case goes all the way back to the late 1990’s, where, yet again, a clause was surreptitiously placed into a bill, late at night, to deny copyright recognition to rum being sold out of Cuba.

It’s an odd story, where Cuba sells Havana Club rum, a famous rum. In the U.S., Bacardi sells Havana Club rum that is essentially stealing the trademark from the Cuban/French distiller. The U.S. has refused to recognize the trademark for over a decade, which has, like a cancer, slowly spread throughout the WTO until what is a seemingly esoteric case has managed to piss off almost every other country on the planet.

Considering our history of such bald-faced belligerence and intransigence, it is not surprising that negotiations with Antigua continue to fail. And do not think for a moment that anyone is falling for America’s claims of being the actual wronged party. Nearly every other country in the WTO is siding with Antigua, albeit in an unofficial manner. I would imagine that the only countries that would officially side with the U.S. are its usual partners in international crime, Canada and the U.K. And I know that I rant about this, but I feel that it bears repeating: the U.S. bribed both Canada and the U.K. to stay quiet about the UIGEA and Antigua’s WTO suit!

It is amazing the amount of pressure that Antigua is managing to conjure in its battle with the States. It is also encouraging, because it reveals how much sway a tiny nation can have over a bigger one, and hints that the days of American domination of the global economy are truly at an end. All that we have to do now is, well, wait. More activity has happened in the last three months than the previous five years. Something is in the offing. I just hope that it’s not simply more of the same.

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