Notes from an Informal Lunch Meeting with ACTA Negotiators

Mike Palmedo
August 18, 2010

Yesterday's lunch with ACTA negotiators was set up in a way that surprised all who attended.  There were no presentations, Q&A, or structured conversations.  Instead, the room had a bunch of small tables that seated 5 or 6 people each, and everyone walked around and mingled.  Almost none of the negotiators who I talked to had business cards.  There wasn’t really an opportunity to take notes or record anyone.

Jamie Love (KEI), Malini Aisoloa (KEI), Alberto Cerda(KEI), Peter Maybarduk (Public Citizen), Sherwin Siy (Public Knowledge), Rohit Malpani (Oxfam), Meredith Jacob (American Univeristy, PIJIP) and I were the civil society attendees.  There were approximately 30 ACTA negotiators from various countries.  All negotiators seemed to share the sense that progress was being made, yet it was coming along very slowly.

Four Korean negotiators were at a table together, and Hyeyoon Choi, Assistant Director, Copyright Division, DG of Copyright Policy spoke with us more than the others.  In general, they said that the conversations so far had centered around copyright issues.  Conversations about the scope of what would be included in ACTA had not yet taken place.  They understand some people are concerned about access to medicines, but the way they see it, patents are out of the border section so there isn't much of an issue left.  They didn’t seem to agree that trademark issues or third party liability could threaten access to medicines.  When asked what Korean civil society was pushing for, the answer was quite different than what we expected.  There has been some pressure in Korea for the inclusion of ‘morality on the internet’ provisions following a string a scandals in Korea involving celebrity suicides linked to gossipy internet slander.

George Mina from the Australian negotiation, and Benoit Lory and Luc Devigne from the EU, were at a table together.  They said that the scope of IP in ACTA had come up in conversations, although in a somewhat indirect manner.  They all said that a decision will be made about whether or not to release the text publicly at the end of the week, but said that (personally, not officially) they didn’t see why the text shouldn’t be released if it’s just going to be leaked anyway.

Luc Devigne (lead EU Negotiator) is gung ho that patents will be in.  He thinks that medicines have been addressed and therefore medicines are not an issue.  He asked more than once how you could have an ‘IP Enforcement’ treaty and not include patents – and dismissed suggestions that ACTA is specifically an ‘Anti-Counterfeiting’ treaty  rather than a broader enforcement treaty.  George Mina said the Australian government’s position was that patents should out of the agreement entirely.

Mina was amenable to the idea that more safeguards ought to be inserted into the text.  Devigne was not opposed to this either, but Mina was seemed more open to it. 

Kira Alvarez (lead USTR negotiator) said she will come and speak at an open, publicized, webcast event at American Unviersity Washington College of Law.  She needs to figure out the specifics of her schedule, but she will do the event.

Stan McCoy (USTR) said that the main aim of the meeting is to slowly go through the text, and iron out as many brackets as possible.  They want to identify the differences that negotiators feel strongly about, and which might be more easily resolved.  They want to have something less bracketed that negotiators can take back to their countries before the next round. 

All of the negotiators I talked to said that there was no date set for the next round in Japan.  They said that this issue would be discussed on Friday. Someone told another that the next round will be the week of September 27.

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