Sovereignty is the basis of all legal manners and norms. It allows a certain group of people to determine that they wish for a joint set of rules and to control the conduct of those people and the group itself within the specified group. However, sovereignty has its price, as it might cause damage to others, not included in the sovereign group, or even to other sovereign groups, which might adjoin to a bigger, sovereignier, group.
Back in October 2006, the Bush administration had inserted an irrelevant part to the SAFE Port act. This act was actually meant to protect US Citizens from unlawful gaming. This legislation practically destroyed a large portion of the gaming industry’s value, causing companies like PartyGaming to wipe billions in value. In a brief act of sovereignty, the United States damaged many foreign citizens’ property. The US resolution to criminalise on-line gaming by determining that virtual gaming is prohibited in the US and that financial enterprises would not be able to clear credit cards for these games. Though a 270 grace period was given, the US had failed to show any methods of practice.
However, just a few years earlier, Antigua, a small country with virtually hundreds of on-line casinos, petitioned the WTO against the US block on internet gaming. Their claim was that, technically, all gaming transactions are made as a part of international trade of goods or services. The WTO stated, in its ruling, that the United States cannot establish different standards of morals and prohibit on-line gaming while real gaming exists in the United States, therefore, when the US enacted the SAFE act, it was was in breach of the WTO agreement. This is a trade barrier that discriminates businesses due to their origin: Like 3rd world countries cannot impose tariffs on US agricultural export, the US cannot ban on-line gaming. Again, after the SAFE Act banning on-line gambling, Antigua went to the WTO and won. The US were blocked from banning Antigua now. Now, after failing to obey the WTO decision, United States is faced with a 100 billion dollar fine.
The meaning of a One hundred billion dollar fine (almost as large as Israel’s national debt and around 70% of Israel’s yearly GDP) means that Antigua will actually earn one hundred times its GDP in one instalment, and that the US will have to pay 2% of its budget, as much as needed to triple the US education budget or finance 1/6th of the war in Iraq, that amount of money is paid since the US is determined to prevent on-line gambling.
This cost is the actual cost of sovereignty; this is the cost that the US imposes on its taxpayers since it decided to enter a free trade association and afterwards break the rules and decide that no free trade will exist in one place, as it goes against a national interest. It is a country’s right to determine that certain activities will be illegal, but once it determines that something is legal, it must be opened to business with every state.
But this isn’t the only time that the US objected to any convention. During 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was released, determining that CO2 emission will decrease over the next years (full text). The US declined to ratify the protocol as required by international law due to economic interests (also) and since China is exempt from it.
So the United States never believed that trade barriers and green legislation could assist its global trade and the internal economy, and therefore released itself from obligations which were enacted. This might be legitimate if you see it as a part of sovereignty itself; However, What will happen when it comes to human rights?
Going back to 1993, in Huston, Texas, Two young girls were abducted in the street, then brutally killed. Jose Medellin, an illegal immigrant from Mexico was arrested as one of the suspects and confessed admitting the crime. Medellin was convicted, then the state of Mexico appealed. The reason for the appeal was the US’s breach of the 1963 Vienna convention that codified citizens’ right to contact local consulates at police interrogations. After the Hauge’s ruling in the case of Mexico v. US, Medellin appealed to the US supreme court since he claimed that he was not given that right and therefore requested a rehearing of his trial (Medellin v. Dretke); the case was finally settled when George Bush stated that he will not allow Medellin’s execution (alongside other death row inmates). However, Bush’s statement was circumvented by Texas. After Texas decided to execute Medellin in spite of Bush’s statements, Medellin appealed to the Supreme Court again. This time since George Bush pulled the US from the Vienna Convention, which meant that the US seized his rights under international law and is now sovereign and detached from any other rights.
All these actions are acts of sovereignty, they mean that the US does not bound itself to prior decisions and is free to change the laws of the game like any other state; they also mean that any agreement signed by (or with) the US could be changed in an act of Congress, any international agreement is worth the paper it is written on, and that paper only.
As we can see, the usual practice applied by the US is that whenever the rules of the game are problematic, they tend to change it. There will be no difference between the WTO’s decision and the Hague’s decision. The United States will stop its membership in the WTO and establish a new organisation, where trade barriers will exclude gaming, therefore allowing it to do whatever they want again. Since the US is still the biggest purchasing power in the world, countries will tend to move to use the new establishment instead of the old one.
Then why would any nation sign any agreement with any other nation as it may withdraw its consent in a sovereign act? That is a great question. Is the only reason to do such a thing is the option to resort to international courts? As the law of merchants applies here, I guess that the only way to maintain independent nations will be to either remove all trade barriers while establishing a global anti-trust system with efficient labour laws and ethical conduct codes or to stop international trade at all.