Notes on ACTA Meeting Emerge

Sean Flynn
September 27,  2010

Last Friday September 24, ACTA host Japan sponsored a lunch mixer with NGOs and almost no one came. By one account, there may have been as few at three NGOs there. Requests to the Japan and US delegations to release a list of who attended the meeting have gone unanswered. But a few details have begun to emerge. There is little to counter the widespread perception that the meeting was designed to thwart rather than engage the expression of civil society views on the negotiation. 

The meeting was an informal lunch with negotiators scattered at tables rather than structured in a means for dialogue. This is similar to the D.C. "mixer" and in contrast to Lucerne. In Lucerne the delegates requested written questions in advance and answered them in a structured dialogue around a conference table. Everything was on the record, which led to many news stories based on meeting notes released from those present. In DC and now Tokyo the engagement was more informal with no opportunities for formal question and answers of the group.

Representatives of Oxfam, Creative Commons and perhaps one or two other grops were reported to be at the meeting. According to one attendee who arrived late, there were very few open seats where NGOs could sit with negotiators. Mostly the tables appeared to be of egotiators eating with other negotiators.  

Those negotiators present were "not inclined to say much," but some discussions were had.

A delegate from Australia stated that the scope of the agreement is "by far" largest issue at hand. It being only the first day of the negotiation, not much had been discussed or moved forward.

Some have reported that the issue of safeguards is on the table during the meeting. Australia is one of the parties that wants more safeguards mentioned in the agreement. One justification being used for the inclusion of stronger safeguards is to promote more countries becoming a member "down the road."

It has been reported that the United States expressed its position that the scope of the Agreement should be limited to willful trademark counterfeiting and commercial scale copyright infringement. The US is arguing that there is less of a need to include access to medicines safeguard language in the agreement if patents are not included.

Masahiko Saito, Head of Delegation from Japan stated that he "can assure" that the scope of intellectual property covered will differ amongst chapters in the final agreement.    

There is apparently an ongoing discussion over the language in the border measures chapter making coverage of patents optional. Some countries oppose including either the opt out of the EU or opt in of the US, preferring instead to avoid reference to broader IP rights in the text. This is the public interest position.

The Japanese delegate stated that the ACTA institution "is not set in stone," and  some countries are promoting an option in which there would not be a new ACTA institution established. 

As reported earlier, this meeting was announced Wednesday morning, effectively blocking the participation of NGOs from the U.S. and EU given the late notice and incredibly long flights.

Several individuals and organizations, including KEI and EU Members of Parliament, asked Japan to reschedule the civil society meeting for the following week when organizations from the US and EU could attend. Japan refused. Mr. Yoshihiro Takeda of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained that the meeting would be "an opportunity to exchange views informally . . ., not a firm consultation."

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