Monday, December 15, 2008

Drafting An Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement: Where is China?

The drafting of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) was, and to a lesser extent still is, shrouded in secrecy. There has been a lot of criticism about the lack of transparency in the negotiation process and drafting of ACTA. Only a leakage in 2007 provided a draft version of ACTA, see here (4 pages pdf).

This September a lot of stakeholders signed a protest letter that to withhold the citizens of countries participating in the negotiation process is undemocratic. The Chinese Domain Name User Alliance in Beijing was the only Chinese signatory of the protest.

It became clear in October 2007 that the United States, the European Community, Switzerland, and Japan are participants. After that Australia, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Jordan, Morocco, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Canada joined.

The goal is to establish a new international legal framework and to set a new, higher benchmark than TRIPs for the enforcement of intellectual property rights that countries can join on a voluntary basis.

Although China is not participating in the drafting process (either because China was not invited or it declined an invitiation), it is the ultimate objective of ACTA that "large emerging economies, where IPR could be improved, such as China and Russia" to sign up to the global act. Read more in the November 2008 Fact Sheet of the European Commission about ACTA, here. However, one can doubt whether China wants to adhere to a global act if they did not participated in the negotiation process.

So why did the United States and European Community shift the forum from WTO's TRIPs to this new forum, that has no ties with WTO, WIPO or anything we already know? I take it that if you have ambitions to increase the minimum protection/enforcement level of intellectual property, the WTO is a forum with many members so it is likely that the participants have to strike a compromise.

The drafting process of ACTA is in full swing and will continue in 2009.

Read more about ACTA here.

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