Fifteen years after Antigua and Barbuda won the World Trade Organisation (WTO) arbitration against the United States, Prime Minister Gaston Browne lamented that the nation is still waiting on the billions of dollars in damages yet to be paid.
Speaking at the recent United Nations General Assembly, Browne noted that the WTO is not a perfect mechanism in solving trade disputes. He added that the body cannot enforce its rulings, and Antigua and Barbuda continues to wait for an acceptable settlement.
“The U.S. economy is 20,000 times larger than Antigua and Barbuda’s. Compensation for the injury to my small country is less than 0.008 percent of one year of the U.S.’s [Gross Domestic Product] GDP. The injury that was done to my country now amounts to 20 percent of its GDP. No country can easily absorb that severe blow which hurts our economy, sets back our infrastructural development and constrain the provisions of employment and advances in health and education,” Browne said.
The prime minister said that the ability of the people of his small island nation to survive this ordeal, while continuing to thrive, speaks volumes to their resilience.
He added that the discussions about global financial reform should not be centered only around a few world leaders.
During the address to the 73rd General Assembly, Browne took the opportunity to call for the inclusion of all United Nations member-states.
He said that only a few privileged nations are making decisions that impact the livelihoods of billions.
“Arbitrary rules set by unrepresentative bodies for their own narrow purposes have no legitimacy in the world. Enforcement of those arbitrary rules by threat and sanctions of the mighty is not legitimate; it results only in grumbling and reluctant acquiescence that lacks enduring support. Might by enforcers does not make actions right,” Browne added.
He noted that the General Assembly must be revitalised if it is to make any important mark on the people of the world.
The prime minister also warned that unless the General Assembly is made relevant, the actions of the Security Council and of other organisations will be endured but not embraced.
“I hereby make the call once again for a reinvigorated and relevant United Nations General Assembly. I recognise that it would not serve the interests of the powerful who fear the expression of dissent and the call for political rights that many of them demand in other countries,” he said.