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European Parliament's ACTA Negotiator Resigns In Protest

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

01 February 2012

Kader Arif, a member of the Socialist and Democrat alliance within the European Parliament (EP), who was also its rapporteur for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), has resigned his role and condemned the process which led to its conclusion.

Formal ACTA negotiations started in June 2008, with the final round of negotiations being held in Japan in October 2010. The ACTA was opened for signature in May last year, and at the end of September, at a ceremony, Australia, Canada, the European Union (EU) and its member states, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States reaffirmed their commitment to it, with eight of those countries, not including the EU, immediately signing it.

When it 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.

The hope had been expressed that it will represent a significant achievement in the fight against the infringement of intellectual property rights (IPR), in particular the proliferation of counterfeiting and piracy on a global scale, providing a mechanism for the parties to work together in a more collaborative manner to achieve the common goal of effective IPR enforcement.

It includes provisions on civil, criminal, border and digital environment enforcement measures, robust cooperation mechanisms among the ACTA parties to assist in their enforcement efforts, and the establishment of best practices for effective IPR enforcement.

With respect to the legal framework, the ACTA would establish a strengthened standard that builds on the minimum standards of the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). It is said that this marks a considerable improvement in international trade norms for effectively combating the current global proliferation of commercial-scale counterfeiting and piracy.

However, during its negotiation, concern was expressed on the secrecy surrounding its terms, leading the EP, and other parties, to regret the lack of transparency, amidst concern as to the ACTA’s possible effect, particularly on internet and digital rights.

In fact, in November 2010, the EP, while passing a resolution welcoming the terms of the ACTA as a step in the right direction, called on the European Commission (EC) to confirm that it will have no impact on either basic freedoms or existing EU legislation. It called on the EC "to confirm that the ACTA’s implementation will have no impact on fundamental rights and data protection, on the on-going EU efforts to harmonize IPR enforcement measures, or on e-commerce."

Nevertheless, it has now been disclosed that the EC, on behalf of the EU, signed the ACTA on January 26, although no press release was issued and the agreement still requires the approval of the EP, which has the power to veto international agreements concluded by the EU.

In fact, in the announcement of his resignation, Arif condemned “the whole process which led to the signature of this agreement: no consultation of the civil society, lack of transparency since the beginning of negotiations, repeated delays in the signature of the text without any explanation given, and rejection of the EP's recommendations as given in several of its resolutions.”

“As (EP) rapporteur on this text,” he continued, “I have also experienced never-before-seen manoeuvers to impose a rushed calendar before public opinion could be alerted, thus depriving the EP of its right to expression and of the tools at its disposal to convey citizens' legitimate demands.”

He added that “everyone knows” that there are problems with the ACTA, for example in the responsibility it could put on internet providers, and that he wanted “to send a strong signal and alert the public opinion about this unacceptable situation. I will not take part in this masquerade.”

TAGS: TRIPS | European Commission | commerce | law | intellectual property | copyright | enforcement | agreements | internet | e-commerce | legislation | standards | trade | European Union (EU) | Europe

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