Barbuda decimated by Irma, Antigua seeks $270+M from US WTO ruling

Antigua PM implores United Nations to uphold a $270+ million WTO ruling against US following Hurricane Irma’s decimation of Barbuda.

Barbuda Decimated by Hurricane Irma

Three weeks ago the small, 62 square-mile island of Barbuda was the beautiful, well established home of more than 1,800 residents. One week later, its population was reduced to 0. With Hurricane Irma looming, Antigua enforced a mandatory evacuation of the smaller island. It was clearly the right move as Barbuda was utterly decimated; 95% of its infrastructure destroyed or severely damaged.

On Thursday, September 21, the Honourable Gaston A. Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, gave a national statement at the 72nd United Nations Generally Assembly. He spoke passionately of the infernal destruction that’s befallen his homeland, and the ultimate crisis left behind.

The Reality of a Devastating Situation


“On September 6th, my small, two-island State, Antigua and Barbuda, was the victim of the ferocity of Hurricane Irma, the largest storm ever endured in the Atlantic in human history,” Browne’s voice rang haltingly, forcing the reality of the devastation to set in. “The island of Barbuda was decimated; its entire population left homeless; and its buildings reduced to empty shells.”

In a deliberate beseeching of the UN, he spent the next 20 minutes detailing the catastrophic annihilation of Barbuda, and the resulting deprivation of Antigua.

Following the evacuation of all Barbudans to the larger island state, “the social services on Antigua are now under great strain,” said Browne. Not only is Antigua providing shelter and basic necessities to those displaced, they must “provide school places for an additional 600 children; medical services for the elderly; and a means of income for the able-bodied.”

$270M Owed to Former Online Gambling Hub

Browne implored the UN to provide assistance in the rebuilding of Barbuda, not just through monetary grants and financial assistance with reasonable interest rates, but by encouraging the United States to uphold a ruling 13 year old ruling from World Trade Organization.

In 2004, Antigua and Barbuda was awarded a judgment of more than $270 million from the US. The island nations were once a hub for online gambling services. It was a multi-million dollar industry, until the US declared American players could not access those websites.

Antigua and Barbuda filed a complaint with the WTO in 2003, claiming the decision violated their trade agreement. The WTO ruled in favor of Antigua and Barbuda.

“The US trade violation, led to significant loss of revenues to my country and unemployment of my people,” Browne explained.

“It has been 13 years since that judgment, and seven years since the final appeal by the US, resulted in a final ruling in my country’s favour. Yet, the United States Government has failed to settle,” he continued. “The loss of trade revenues to my small country has risen to in excess of US$200 million.”

Upholding WTO Ruling Would Benefit US

Browne pointed out that, just two days prior, US President Donald Trump said, “we can no longer be taken advantage of, or enter into a one-sided deal where the United States gets nothing in return”.

He welcomed that observation, calling it “equally true for the relationship with Antigua and Barbuda.

“Honoring their obligation to Antigua & Barbuda is not a one-sided deal, of which the United States gets nothing in return, because ultimately, 90 percent of the settlement proceeds will be spent in the US economy, as our primary source market.”

Whether the US will finally settle its debt to the island nation – a debt that would cover the estimated $250 million cost of rebuilding Barbuda and returning its residents to their homeland – is yet to be seen.

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