|Friday, June 03, 2005||Contact: Maurits Bruggink|
|EU excludes gambling from WTO|
The liberalisation of global trade in services in currently been negotiated under the umbrella of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Under the WTO, an agreement on trade in services already exists. It dates from 1995 and is named General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). This agreement is now being renegotiated by all of the almost 150 GATS member states with the aim to tackle the remaining trade barriers in the services sector.
Under the GATS negotiations, each member state will have to make an offer for further liberalisation of trade between them and the rest of the world. The European Union, who negotiates as a trade block on behalf of all its member states, has made its revised offer this week and published it on: http://www.europa.eu.int/comm/trade/index_en.htm.
The EU specifically excludes gambling services from the scope of its offer, hence from trade liberalisation (pg. 349). This does not change anything to the existing EU's GATS committment, which already excludes gambling.
Under the current GATS, the vast majority of the almost 150 member countries have already excluded gambling services. However, some with a vested interest in gambling liberalisation tried to create uncertainty after the recent ruling in a WTO panel dispute between Antigua and the US. This ruling, which dealt with the specific commitments on gambling by the US under the exsisting GATS agreement, made already clear that countries (including the US) can take measures to restrict cross-border gambling in order to protect public morality or maintain public order.
The IFHA is pleased with the EU's renewed confirmation that gambling should not be made subject to general principles of global free trade. Countries have their own policies and laws regarding this sensitive activity, which have to be respected. The IFHA has an active programme of representation in Geneva to convince WTO and GATS members to take a similar approach as the EU.
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