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EC Won’t Sign ACTA – Yet

Issued: September 01 2011

The European Commission told law firm Pinsent Masons that it will not sign a controversial new trade agreement on behalf of EU member countries, despite Japan organizing a signing ceremony for key negotiators, the firm reported on its law blog.

Japan has announced that negotiators of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) will congregate at the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on October 1 and that those countries that have “completed the relevant domestic processes” will sign the agreement.

ACTA is a voluntary international treaty that seeks to provide standardized international enforcement of intellectual property (IP) rights. The agreement was negotiated in secret by the governments of a collection of countries over the past three years, Pinsent Masons reported.

“ACTA was negotiated by Australia, Canada, the European Union and its Member States, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, and the United States,” the firm said. “Negotiations on behalf of the EU member states were conducted by the European Commission, but a nominated signatory of the agreement has still to be picked and the agreement itself approved by the European Parliament. This process needs to be completed before ACTA can be signed on the EU’s behalf,” the blog post said.

“The EU has not yet completed its internal procedures authorizing the signature, therefore it will not be signing ACTA at this event,” the Commission spokesperson said in a statement. “Neither will Mexico and Switzerland, since they did not conclude their domestic proceedings.”

“For the EU, the domestic process for signature is that the Council [of Ministers] adopts a decision authorizing a EU representative to sign ACTA. Since this required the translation of the treaty in all the EU languages, such decision has not yet been adopted. It may still require a couple of months for the EU to be able to sign ACTA. After the signature, the European Parliament will have to vote its consent of ACTA,” it said.

According to a statement from the Japanese Government, the EU will have until May 1, 2013, to sign the agreement.

Pinsent Masons said the ACTA has been controversial because of secrecy surrounding its negotiation; because it operates outside of existing trade bodies the World Trade Organization (WTO) and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO); and because earlier drafts reportedly sought to impose measures which could interfere with individuals’ rights.

“In January, a group of 27 European law academics criticized ACTA and urged European governing bodies to reject it,” the blog post said. The group said that ACTA’s criminal enforcement measures protecting IP rights were unlawful.

“Existing IP rights frameworks exist, such as the WTO’s TRIPS (Trade Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) agreement, but critics are concerned that ACTA does not provide the same safeguards that protect accused infringers’ rights,” the firm said.


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