ACTA or Anti Counterfeit Trade Agreement is an international framework for combating trading with counterfeit goods and piracy in all of its commercial forms. The ongoing negotiation talks have been widely criticized for its secrecy regarding both its content and the negotiation process itself. The first issue was raised because according to leaked documents and other sources, ACTA was beginning to pose a threat to civil rights by interfering in their daily lives through checking their e-mails and monitoring their activity on the Internet.
The European Parliament got involved in the end of 2009, although the negotiations began in 2007. The European Commission, representing the EU as one of the 27 stakeholders had to succumb to the pressure of the European Parliament and make the negotiations public. The EC thus violated the Lisbon Treaty, according to which it has to consult with the EP regarding multilateral international agreements. It was concluded that one of the parties wanted the EC to keep quiet until the agreement was reached. The countries currently involved are Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States. The latter was said to have told the EC to keep quiet after the last round of talks held in August.
However, the European Commission claims that the process has been public, although only to the extent such international agreement talks can be. The European Parliament hasn’t quite agreed with this and has tabled a resolution that demands transparency and respect for civil rights. Furthermore, it is clearly stated that the European Parliament is willing to go to court, if needed.
Nonetheless the EP suggested to continue the talks – and with a good reason. The OECD estimates that infringements of intellectual property in international trade (excluding domestic production and consumption) accounts for more than €150 billion per year (higher than the GDP of more than 150 countries). Also, there was growth in seizures of fakes dangerous to health and safety since last year: e.g. cosmetics and personal care products (+264%), toys (+98%), foodstuff (+62%), computer equipment (+62%) and medicines (+51%) show a remarkable percentage increase compared to earlier years. Fake medicines are thought to account for almost 10% of world trade in medicines.
Currently none of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) are involved in the talks. Luckily the agreement is said to be constructed in a way that is open to new parties at any stage and special mechanisms will be created for the smooth transition period.
As for now the MEPs are working in order to publish the negotiation texts and stand against the possible breach of civil rights and intellectual property rights. Namely, ACTA consists of three parts, one of which focuses on IPR infringements. Of course such regulation is necessary in order to avoid counterfeit goods, but this cannot be done at the expense of peoples’ privacy and rights. As the EP resolution on ACTA adopted in March this year states:
” H. whereas it is crucial to ensure that the development of IPR enforcement measures is accomplished in a manner that does not impede innovation or competition, undermine IPR limitations and personal data protection, restrict the free flow of information or unduly burden legitimate trade,”
In the beginning of October it was announced by the Commission that the talks were finished. This info has yet to be verified by other parties as well.
For more information, please read:
Info on ACTA
La quadrature: “ACTA”
European parliament: “ACTA resolution”
The European Commission ACTA page
“Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement – Summary of Key Elements Under Discussion (PDF)”
Euractiv: “US told EU to hide ACTA from public”