[Ip-health] IP-Watch: TTIP Still In 'Exploratory' Phase On GIs; Data Flows Tied To Privacy Regimes

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Mon Mar 17 07:19:26 PDT 2014


TTIP Still In 'Exploratory' Phase On GIs; Data Flows Tied To Privacy Regimes

Published on 14 March 2014 @ 9:51 pm

By Monika Ermert <http://www.ip-watch.org/author/monika/> for Intellectual
Property Watch

Press conferences, stakeholder meetings and presentations as well as
picture-tweets about consultations have become a habit of the negotiators
of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Still, after
this week's round of negotiations, answers to tougher questions like what
are the chances of reconciling regimes on the protection of geographic
indications or data flows and data privacy seem far from clear.

After round four of the TTIP negotiations between the European Union and
United States this week in Brussels, the lead negotiators could not offer
anything that looks easy in the talks.

Negotiators during this round covered market access - tariffs, trade in
services and procurement -, regulation and regulatory coherence, plus
potential joint "rules" for some areas like sustainable development, labour
and the environment, trade in energy and raw materials and customs, EU lead
negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero said during the press conference (see
press release here<http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/press/index.cfm?id=1041>

Both sides also were looking for regulatory compatibility in key industries
like pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, medical devices, automotive and chemicals.
Bercero pointed to interesting requests from the automotive sector for a
study on safety equivalence during this week's stakeholder meeting. If
regulators come to mutual recognition of regulation in some sectors, that
could undoubtedly be one of the most significant potential outcomes of the
TTIP, he said. Bercero at the same time rejected the notion that industry
was providing text to be directly included in the agreements.

Negotiators also promoted their efforts to make TTIP beneficial for small
and medium businesses. A joint EU-US
leaflet<http://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/in-focus/ttip/> published
alongside the press release of this round make the case that TTIP is not
just for big business.

The CEOs of several US and EU-based SMOs are quoted as welcoming lower
tariffs and eased customs clearance or compliance regulation. The leaflet
authors also list "strong protection of their intellectual property" and
"duty-free treatment of digital products, and consumer access to services
and applications of their choice on the Internet" as of major interest for
small and medium businesses.

SMEs might receive an extra chapter in the TTIP and an SME committee in the
future. US lead negotiator Dan Mullaney confirmed the interest in "to
expand participation of SMEs in transatlantic trade."

*[Update:]* according to reports, the German government has raised a demand
that investor-state provisions be left out of the TTIP. Such provisions
allow private sector to directly challenge government policies seen as
harmful to their expected investment benefits.

*Explorations in Feta and Parmesan Protection*

Answering a question on the 'hot potato' topic of protection of geographic
indications, Bercero confirmed that geographic indications (such as brie
cheese) were on the table this week. "It's of great importance to the EU,"
he underlined, acknowledging the "divergent approaches" on both sides.
TTIP, he said, would be a "good opportunity to find a way forward," but "we
are still very much in an exploratory phase of our discussions."

Mullaney joined Bercero in pointing to "pragmatism" needed to resolve the
issue, while at the same time explaining that products protected under the
GI system in the EU did not only receive protection in the US under the
trademark and other systems, but also "do very well in the US, sales have
been increasing."

The EU and the US have fought over GI protection in a variety of platforms,
such as at the World Trade Organization and World Intellectual Property
Organization, and recently also in duelling over special protections under
the new internet top-level domains .vin and .vine.

Questions on the nature of an IP chapter for the TTIP were not answered at
press time.

Both negotiators during the talk rejected the notion of categorical
"exemptions" for products like hormone beef or chlorinated chicken. Beef
and chicken did not need to be exempted as such, Bercero declared.

*Data Flows Yes, But Observe EU Data Legislation*

On another controversial issue, Bercero reiterated that TTIP is "not the
right place to address the differences of view that need to be resolved as
far as data privacy is concerned." But the EU is "ready to discuss the flow
of data," which is "a core component of a modern economy."

"We also do it from the clear and simple promise that any personal data
that flows has to be in accordance with EU data protection legislation, now
and in the future," Bercero said. The European Parliament this week also
voted in favour of withholding consent for the TTIP if it does not fully
respect EU data privacy rules.

Mullaney also pointed to the indispensability of data flows for a modern
economy, making the case that legitimate privacy regimes on both sides
could be respected in a final compromise.

After a workshop organised by the Green Party on the relation of TTIP and
data protection, Ante Wessels, analyst for the non-governmental
organisation Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII),
warned that the US wants to "undermine privacy" with a proposal in the TTIP
e-commerce chapter that would "prohibit local data storage" (see blog post
here <http://acta.ffii.org/?p=2050>). Localization obligations for cloud
and infrastructure providers are currently debated in various shapes and
forms in the EU, but also other countries.

The next round of negotiations will take place in Washington in early
summer, Bercero and Mullaney said.

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