|In America, a non-profit consumer advocacy organisation has filed a lawsuit against the White House alleging that it is illegally withholding the details of a settlement with the European Union (EU) over the enforcement of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA).|
Public Citizen was founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in government and is taking the White House to court in Washington, DC, to force the US Trade Representative to make the details of the agreement public.
The World Trade Organisation authorised trade sanctions against the United States last year after ruling that it had failed to conform its gambling laws to the Organisation’s rules. In response, President George Bush announced that the Government would remove the gambling sector from the World Trade Organisation’s coverage. However, in order to do so, the US was forced to negotiate separate compensation agreements with affected nations.
Although the White House has announced deals with the EU and several other countries, the US Trade Representative has refused to release the details of these agreements. Public Citizen alleges that this is illegal and is representing journalist Ed Brayton of the Michigan Messenger in a Freedom of Information Act petition.
“Americans have a right to know what kinds of trade concessions the US Government is granting other countries, especially when those deals have a significant impact on domestic policy and may be worth billions of dollars,” said Bonnie Robin-Vergeer, an attorney for Public Citizen.
“The Bush Administration’s decision to withhold the agreement under the Freedom of Information Act has more to do with its desire to prevent public and Congressional scrutiny of the settlement before it is enshrined in a new World Trade Organisation schedule than it does with national security. The Freedom of Information Act requires the agreement’s release.”