French NGO La Quadrature Du Net has sifted through US diplomatic cables released by Nobel Prize nominee Wikileaks and uncovered details surrounding the dreaded Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).
According to La Quadrature, the cables state Japan was approached by the USA to chalk up a “gold-standard” IPR (intellectual property rights) agreement “among a small number of like-minded countries,” i.e. countries whose corporate wealth is based, to a large degree, on creating and enforcing intellectual property.
Japan wanted to ask the OECD to help out, but the USA claimed it had enough expertise to draw on. International bodies were not included in designing the ACTA which instead was written in secret. The next step was to push the proposed agreement down the throats of other countries, especially developing nations. Mexico, Jordan and Morocco were approached. Jordan and Morocco, adopters of US IPR measures, were ensnared to make ACTA look good on paper.
Mexico played what La Quadrature called a “good cop”, trying to ward off “…Brazilian efforts to undermine IPR in international health organisations”. It is in the interest of developing nations to limit IPR in the health arena in order to supply their citizens with adequate levels of medical treatment and healthcare without having to pay bucketloads of money to pharmaceutical companies and corporations in the West.
India already threatened to throw ACTA out of the window last year June, as the country was furious that both the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) had been bypassed. The cables are a smoking gun showing it was a concerted effort on behalf of the USA and its collaborator Japan to create an agreement in a non-democratic, un-transparent process aiming at exploiting the rest of the world.
As a course of strategy, Japan and the US decided to engage in direct negotiations with EU member countries instead of the European Commission (EC). A major problem for the EU is that it speaks with many voices, no matter how hard the EU institutions try to unify opinion and interests. The US and Japanese chose their approach to exploit internal quibbling and dissent.
Italy was peeved about the EC getting involved and would have liked only a few other EU member countries to chat to the US. Portugal however was happy the EC became involved. The entire process became bogged down in Europe, due to quarrelling about the competencies of the EC and the member countries.
In the end, the EC had concerns about the lack of transparency for the entire process, fearing the US were negotiating the text and process with its industry, something the EC was not allowed to do. La Quadrature quotes a Swedish official who stated that “the secrecy around the negotiations has led to the legitimacy of the whole process being questioned.”
Last year June, Germany’s Federal Minister of Justice said she would not sign an agreement trying to introduce the Three-Strikes Rule and asked the agreement to be made public.
The biggest problem for the EC, apart from the process designed to be beneficial to the US and its economic interest, was also the omission of protection of geographical indications. Lack of such protection could, for instance, lead to foreign food companies labelling products as “Parmegiano-Reggiano”, or Parmesan cheese, despite not being made in the designated, original areas of production.
While the cables do not reveal anything new, they nonetheless add more details to the history of ACTA, an agreement which ought to be immediately thrown out of the window by the EC and EU member states, along with its backers.