Thursday, 07 February 2013 02:30
By Dr. Isaac Newton
What does it profit a nation to gain legal victory and lose its development goal? I ask this question in light of Antigua and Barbuda’s (A&B) unparalleled patience in attempting to resolve the longstanding dispute with the United States (US) at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
It is over fair trading specific to the country’s ability to provide remote gaming and gambling services to US customers. This has crippled A&B’s 4 billion dollar gambling industry, which provided thousands of jobs and which has since contributed to severe financial collapse of the local economy.
The United Progressive Party (UPP) administration exhausted by this ordeal has unburdened its frustrations. Recently, it has gained lawful authorization from the WTO Dispute Settlement Body. This has given A&B the freedom to suspend concessions and other copyrights, patents, trademarks, and related rights between the US and A&B as a means of remedy, in response to the US’s failure to comply with the WTO ruling, which favored A&B ten years ago.
In uncompromising style, the US has characterized A&B’s intention not to protect US companies’ intellectual propriety as acts of piracy and thief. By placing the matter in such stark terms, the US signals the distinct geopolitical imperatives and financial thrust that drives its foreign policy.
Using underdog imagery and marketing tactics, the A&B government has recently deployed ethical posturing, not as substitute for substantive settlement, but as a vehicle to bring closure to an unrelenting process of negotiation siege. The government has also chosen to dramatically define this mounting tension, less in terms of colliding national interests, and more along the lines of might versus right engagement.
For the US, that a tiny island is standing up against a superpower only signifies the problematic implications of clarity around national priorities and cross border interests of two sovereign countries. There should be no illusions of uncommon magnanimity to tease out a lasting settlement.
The daunting prospect of A&B transmuting its legal victory into a transcendent moment of fair trade practices shared by all members of the WTO, may rob the US of any foreign policy catharsis that could protect its financial base. The US cannot afford to weaken its global standing or open itself to similar challenges from other nations.
I would have thought that the Finance Minister Harold Lovell would have been a bit more careful about associating the tradition of David and Goliath with the real world where power differential is not a fantasy. David’s victory, though instructive, is a Biblical miracle. This is not to say that Antigua and Barbuda should retreat from the important work of pursuing justice for its people. But one has “to be wise as serpent and harmless as dove” in aligning national pride with geostrategic navigation to accomplish one’s goals.
Both countries claim that they have taken genuine steps to secure a reasonable settlement. A&B reports that the US’s responses were blatantly unfair, and the US indicates that A&B’s demands fell desperately ill of impracticality.
There’s still time for crafting a win-win settlement infused with patriotic hunger without displaying crude indifference to A&B’s universal moral import or the US’s legitimate concerns. Within the struggles for equity in the global arena, A&B cannot afford to sacrifice creative imagination and big thinking dexterity on the altar of magnifying ethical suasion, despite intemperate against all odds conviction of foreign legal advisory and external public relations firms.
Philosophically and practically, I want solutions that are rigorously engaging and mutually keen, even admirable for both countries to smile. A mobile mindscape and a flexible disposition are necessary to spot ample opportunities for a host of infrastructural and technological projects made possible through the World Bank via the US’s influence on behalf of A&B.
Assuming bridgeable differences A&B could negotiate: financial aid easing of US students studying in Antigua that has the potential to convert A&B into the offshore college destination in the Caribbean; renewable energy investments with underwritten support from the US and; the erection of public health shines that address diabetes and other deadly diseases, coupled with collaborative interventions to minimize economic and social impact of crimes and drugs on the wellbeing of A&B.
To discover more areas of mutual concern, A&B could seek pedagogical assistance to stop pervasive failure of Mathematics at the primary and secondary schools level. Another hopeful solution is to become host to a major job generating initiative (poverty and inequality reduction) that supports the Caribbean’s progress.
These ideas would resonate with the US’s aims to promote democracy and prosperity regionally. There are a lot more brilliant solutions waiting to be tapped from indigenous and Diasporas intelligentsia.
This approach appears to have a more effective outcome. There are tangible benefits. It could move A&B and the US beyond a rigid stance, and it could open strategic veins that are far more morally defendable and sustainably useful to threats and counter threats!
There is no real virtue in proposed offerings that fail to take into full consideration, the vast operational worldviews between US and A&B in this troubled situation. Although staying the course may produce rhetorical delight for our politicians, it will not guarantee achievable result for the country or flood this dispute with light and splendor.
Dr. Isaac Newton is an International Leadership and Change Management Consultant and Political Adviser. He specializes in Government and Business Relations, and Sustainable Development Projects. Dr. Newton works extensively, in West Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America and is a graduate of Oakwood College, Harvard, Princeton and Columbia. He has published several books on personal development and written many articles on economics, education, leadership, political, social, and faith based issues.