IP Watch | 21 February 2013
Trade Commissioner: EU to seek GIs in US FTA, but no new ACTA
By Monika Ermert for Intellectual Property Watch
There will be a chapter on intellectual property protection in the draft proposals for a US-EU free trade agreement – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said today at a meeting of the International Trade Committee of the European Union in Brussels. The TTIP would be a comprehensive agreement that would create the largest free trade zone in the world, according to De Gucht.
De Gucht said the EU made headway towards better protection for geographical indications (like Champagne, Parmesan or Nürnberger) in FTA negotiations with Canada, Singapore and Colombia. “We want to make that with the Americans, too,” he said, acknowledging that he expected tough negotiations on that topic.
With regard to the ongoing CETA negotiations, De Gucht said, “what is on the table is not enough, they need to make additional steps or there will be no agreement”.
On the other hand, De Gucht said he did not want to reopen the discussion on Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which he called “a nail to my coffin.” As long as there is no respective EU legislation with regard to copyright protection on the internet, he will not try to “bring it it through the backdoor,” he said. “I am no masochist,” the Commissioner said, recalling the resounding failure of ACTA in Europe.
The discussions on the potential burdening of private companies with copyright enforcement mechanisms on the internet was one of the reasons for the failure of the much-debated ACTA agreement last year.
With regard to the timeline with the United States, De Gucht said he expects to officially ask the member states for the Commission negotiating mandate in the European Council session in March, and expects approval by the latest at the meeting of the trade and economy ministers of the 27 member states in June, and if possible earlier.
In order to meet the ambitious goal of finalising negotiations in two years time, the Commission is already now working on technical issues together with their US counterparts, one of these being the work on common technical norms and standards that might bring a boost for both economies.
Asked by Dutch Member of European Parliament Marietje Schaake how the Commission wants to garner the “public support,” the lack of which had killed ACTA, De Gucht was vague, pointing to member states’ support in the first place.
De Gucht might not see the negotiations through under his term in office, he pointed out, which ends in 1.5 years. He said there is no “plan B” to the planned comprehensive agreement (for example, by excluding sensitive issues like agriculture or genetically modified organisams).
The currently hotly debated subject of data protection will not be put on the TTIP table, he said, in order not to put too much in the agreement.