The Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) between the European Union, Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerlandand the USA has been the focus of much attention over the past few weeks.
I have received a number of emails and have been regularly “tweeted” on the issue. Since it is a matter of concern, I have decided to post the following, which I hope will address the points which have been raised.
ACTA must target only commercial and not individual counterfeiters. I am strongly of the view, as are my fellow Labour MEPs, that the need to address serious counterfeiting should not lead to any erosion of civil liberties. In this regard I and other Labour MEPs object to any ‘three strike’ rule whereby Internet service providers can suspend the Internet connection of copyright infringers after two warnings. Equally my colleagues and I do not support so called border measures such as the searching by Customs of travellers’ iPods or laptops for illegally downloaded files.
Labour MEPs also share the frustrations of many constituents who believed the negotiations should have been conducted in a more transparent manner. The European Parliament put significant pressure on the European Commission during the negotiations to increase transparency. The European Commission was successful in persuading other ACTA negotiating partners to release a consolidated negotiating text. While the European Parliament continued to call for the further release of all negotiating texts with individual country positions, we were disappointed that further opening up of the negotiations could not be agreed by all negotiating parties.
The European Parliament now has a formal role in the eventual approval or rejection of this Agreement. The negotiations were concluded in November 2010, and each negotiating party is now in the process of ratifying and signing the Agreement. In the EU this requires agreement from the Council of Ministers (made up of the 27 Member States) and the European Parliament. On Thursday 26th January 2012 twenty-two Member States (including the UK) signed the agreement. The European Parliament will now draft a report to recommend whether or not Parliament should give its approval to the Agreement, and this will be done by the International Trade committee. This is expected to begin next month. Parliament’s political leverage over the European Commission has therefore been substantial given that the Agreement cannot be ratified without Parliament’s approval.
In addition to its legislative role, the European Parliament monitored the negotiations throughout the 11 rounds and adopted Resolutions highlighting our priorities to the Commission. In March 2010 my colleague David Martin MEP – in his capacity as Labour spokesperson on International Trade in the European Parliament – co-authored a Resolution which was adopted by Parliament. In November 2010 in response to the release of the draft text the Parliament again adopted a Resolution.
The European Parliament successfully incorporated several points on transparency and civil liberties into the Resolutions. Firstly we made it clear that the European Commission – as the EU’s negotiator in ACTA – needed to put pressure on the other participants to open up the negotiations to public scrutiny through the publication of a draft negotiating text.
The Parliament also stated that ACTA should not extend beyond the European Community ‘acquis’ or, in other words, no new intellectual property legislation should be created as a result. The European Union is a signatory to various international Agreements on intellectual property such as the World Trade Organisation’s Agreement on Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). It is important for the European Parliamentary Labour Party that ACTA is consistent with TRIPS and other existing Agreements on Intellectual Property.
You may be interested to read the full resolutions available here: ACTA Plenary Resolution 10 March 2010 and here: ACTA Plenary Resolution 24 November 2010 or watch the debate in which my colleague David Martin spoke: ACTA Plenary debate 9 March 2010
The final text of the Agreement can be read here: Final ACTA text