[A2k] Bridges Weekly Trade News Digest: Eight Countries Sign Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Pact

Thirukumaran Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Thu Oct 6 00:36:04 PDT 2011


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The pact has already stirred substantial discomfort among Mexican policymakers and civil society, with the Mexican Congress approving a resolution in June that specifically asked Mexican President Felipe Calderón not to sign the treaty on Mexico’s behalf (see Bridges Weekly. 29 June 2011). Whether or not Calderón will eventually sign the agreement remains unclear.


Speaking to Bridges, James Love of Knowledge Economy International commented that the USTR’s assertions that the agreement is consistent with US law lacks appropriate explanation. “It is an assertion, without any explanation as to why, for example, a US law that eliminates rights to injunctions or damages, is consistent with obligations [under ACTA] to provide such remedies.”

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While some of the language of the final ACTA bill was watered down to address these concerns, fears remain over freedom of access to information and culture - an issue area that was a large driver behind the Mexican Congress’ June resolution asking the Mexican President not to sign ACTA - and over the higher norms for damages in ACTA relative to the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS).

The issue of whether other TRIPS-plus provisions in ACTA will hamper access to medicines has also drawn substantial criticism from scholar observers. Sean Flynn, associate director of the program on information justice and intellectual property at American University’s Washington College of Law, cautioned in a recent blog post that the increased ease of enforcement of IP rights will “make the global legal environment less hospitable to the promotion of access to affordable medicines around the world.


http://ictsd.org/i/news/bridgesweekly/114959/

Bridges Weekly Trade News Digest • Volume 15 • Number 33 • 5th October 2011

Eight Countries Sign Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Pact

The controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), a multi-country intellectual property trade agreement that has been in negotiations since 2006, was signed on Friday by eight countries, including the US. Representatives from the eleven negotiating parties gathered in Tokyo, Japan on 1 October for the ACTA signing ceremony. The pact has been a source of substantial debate in terms of the agreement’s potential impact on non-signatory countries.

The eight signatories were Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and the US. While the signing of the pact is a major step forward toward the pact coming into force, the agreement still needs to be ratified by at least six parties before becoming binding.

The trade pact opened for signature on 1 May of this year; the government of Japan is the depositary of the Agreement, and parties who have not yet signed may submit their signatures to Japan. The two year window for signing the agreement ends on 1 May 2013.

Representatives from the EU, Mexico, and Switzerland - which are the other negotiating parties to ACTA - were also in attendance at the 1 October signing ceremony, but did not sign the agreement. The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) explained in a statement that these three parties continue to support ACTA “as they complete their domestic procedures to enable them to sign,” without providing further detail.

The pact has already stirred substantial discomfort among Mexican policymakers and civil society, with the Mexican Congress approving a resolution in June that specifically asked Mexican President Felipe Calderón not to sign the treaty on Mexico’s behalf (see Bridges Weekly. 29 June 2011). Whether or not Calderón will eventually sign the agreement remains unclear.

Monday’s signing took place a year after the eleven negotiating parties concluded the final round of negotiations, also held in Tokyo (see Bridges Weekly, 7 October 2010).

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is aimed toward the following three areas, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) said in its announcement: improving international co-operation; establishing best practices for enforcement; and providing a more effective legal framework to address the problem of counterfeiting and piracy.

In a joint press statement, the signatories noted that, “when [ACTA] enters into force with all participants, the ACTA will formalize the legal foundation for a first-of-its-kind alliance of trading partners, representing more than half of world trade.”

Deputy US Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro, who signed the agreement on the US’ behalf, echoed that sentiment, calling the agreement a “ground-breaking achievement that holds the promise of greatly improving the enforcement of intellectual property rights around the world.”

“ACTA builds on World Trade Organization standards to promote international trade in legitimate intellectual property, by elevating standards of enforcement,” Australian Trade Minister Craig Emerson added in a statement of his own.

Signing sparks criticism

The signing of the agreement has prompted questions over the agreement’s consistency with domestic and international laws. The Office of the USTR, in its announcement of the signing, asserts that “ACTA is consistent with existing U.S. law and does not require the enactment of implementing legislation” - implying that the agreement would not require congressional approval to bind the US to its commitments.

This assertion has drawn questions from civil society groups, who have also expressed fears over the agreement’s overall consistency with the domestic laws of signatory countries - particularly the US.

Speaking to Bridges, James Love of Knowledge Economy International commented that the USTR’s assertions that the agreement is consistent with US law lacks appropriate explanation. “It is an assertion, without any explanation as to why, for example, a US law that eliminates rights to injunctions or damages, is consistent with obligations [under ACTA] to provide such remedies.”

The agreement has drawn criticism from civil society groups since negotiations began, both regarding the negotiations’ perceived lack of transparency and over concerns whether ACTA’s terms go beyond what is necessary to target counterfeiting and piracy - to the point of potentially undermining intellectual property (IP) norms of multilateral institutions like the WTO and WIPO.

While some of the language of the final ACTA bill was watered down to address these concerns, fears remain over freedom of access to information and culture - an issue area that was a large driver behind the Mexican Congress’ June resolution asking the Mexican President not to sign ACTA - and over the higher norms for damages in ACTA relative to the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS).

The issue of whether other TRIPS-plus provisions in ACTA will hamper access to medicines has also drawn substantial criticism from scholar observers. Sean Flynn, associate director of the program on information justice and intellectual property at American University’s Washington College of Law, cautioned in a recent blog post that the increased ease of enforcement of IP rights will “make the global legal environment less hospitable to the promotion of access to affordable medicines around the world.”

The timing of the ACTA signing comes as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) holds its annual meetings, or Assemblies, in Geneva (see Bridges Weekly, 28 September 2011). A full report of the WIPO meetings will be featured in next week’s Bridges.

More information


The full list of ACTA negotiating parties, including EU member states, is as follows: Australia, Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union.

ICTSD reporting; “As Bilateral Deals Proceed, WIPO Hears Warnings, Calls For Change,” INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY WATCH, 4 October 2011; “Anti-counterfeiting agreement signed in Tokyo,” REUTERS, 1 October 2011.


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Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International (KEI)

thiru at keionline.org



Tel: +41 22 791 6727
Mobile: +41 76 508 0997









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