The United States and European Union (EU) announced this week that they will pursue a trade treaty in 2013 but also have decided they will not take up intellectual property issues that have proved to be a major sticking point in other trade accords. Last July, 92% of the EU Parliament voted to oppose the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), an attempt to create multinational IP enforcement standards. Legislators expressed concerns with ACTA, including that it legitimized policing outside judicial structures and jeopardized basic freedoms. Support came from creative industries that depend on intellectual property to grow their businesses. Some of the concerns with ACTA are detailed here by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a donor-supported nonprofit that crusades for digital freedom.
Canada secretly has been negotiating a trade agreement with the EU and a leaked view of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) shows it to be a Trojan horse for ACTA. Michael Geist, a Canadian law prof, has analyzed the two treaties in his online column. CETA, like ACTA, gets business involved in copyright enforcement, has a digital lock rule and taps other ACTA provisions word for word.
Accords reached in secret, of course, typically lack popular appeal. ACTA and CETA look to move power from the World Trade Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization to independent enforcement agencies. The United States signed ACTA in October, 2011, but there is controversy as to whether it takes force without congressional approval. The Office of U.S. Trade makes a case for ACTA, presented by Ambassador Miriam Sapiro, here.