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Will the EU Parliament Let TAFTA Turn Into Another ACTA?

Paris, 24 April 2013 — On 25 April next, the “International Trade” (INTA) committee of the European Parliament will vote on a draft resolution on the proposed EU-US trade agreement, the “Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement” (TAFTA), also touted as the “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership” (TTIP). After the ACTA, SOPA, PIPA and CETA fights, once again the negotiators of this new trade agreement try to use it as an opportunity to impose online repression. With Thursday's vote, Members of the European Parliament can and must remove “intellectual property” provisions from the negotiations, and avoid an undemocratic trade agreement that will inflict the worst of both regimes’ rules on the other party. Instead, the current version of the resolution that will be put to vote on Thursday proposes to “include strong protection of intellectual property rights (IPR)” in TAFTA.

Following the Civil Society Declaration “IP out of TAFTA” released by almost 50 European and International organisations, La Quadrature du Net calls on MEPs to exclude from the upcoming TAFTA any provisions related to patents, copyright, trademarks, trade secrets, or other forms of so-called “intellectual property” rights. To this effect, La Quadrature du Net publishes a voting list for the key amendments.

On 28 November 2011, the European Union and United States set up a high-level working group on growth and jobs, aiming at finding accurate solutions to the economical crisis. On 13 February 2013, the final report – which resulted from a year-long consultation of key industrial players – stressed the need for a Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA). Barely 10 months have passed since the MEPs supported by European citizens and civil society organisations voted to unconditionally reject ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. At the time, civil society groups and citizens across Europe called for more openness and transparency. A call that still needs to be heard today, in the context of new trade talks.

No transparency on pre-negotiation and negotiation texts means no guarantees for the European citizens. In 2010, the EU Ombudsman1 underlined that citizens had to be informed about ACTA. Citizens should be informed of any provision which could infringe their fundamental rights, especially freedom of speech, the right to a fair trial and access to knowledge.

The decision-making process on TAFTA is still in its infancy. On Thursday, the European Parliament will vote to mandate the EU Commission to lead negotiations with the United States. The Council decision is expected before the summer break.

In order for the European Parliament to send a clear signal, La Quadrature du Net calls the INTA MEPs:

  • to adopt amendments excluding provisions related to so-called “intellectual property” from TAFTA, as well as those calling for a more sensible approach to copyright enforcement and transparency on the upcoming negotiations, such as amendments 12, 673, 1144 and 1215.
  • to reject amendments calling for the inclusion of stronger copyright enforcement in TAFTA, in particular amendment 1156 and 1197.

The complete list of the amendments is available here and La Quadrature's voting list for the key amendments is here.

Once again, La Quadrature du Net demands the general exclusion of any provisions in trade agreements that undermine fundamental freedoms, the development of free software or access to affordable generic drugs for millions of people; it calls on INTA MEPs to take into account the opinions expressed last year by citizens during anti-ACTA mobilizations during Thursday's vote.

“This resolution vote of the 'International Trade' committee is a key opportunity to exclude any forms of so-called 'intellectual property' from TAFTA. MEPs can make clear that repressive measures threatening our fundamental freedoms have nothing to do in this new trade agreement. European institutions must hear the citizen rejection of ACTA. It is critical to avoid a precedent of undemocratic processes injecting copyright enforcement provisions in all trade agreements. It's time to make global copyright law more flexible and fit for the digital era!” concluded Philippe Aigrain, co-founder of citizen advocacy group La Quadrature du Net.

To get more information and discuss this, you can visit our forum.

  • 1. An ombudsman is an official elected by the European Parliament, with a significant degree of independence. He is charged with representing the interests of the public by investigating and addressing complaints of maladministration or violation of rights.
  • 2. Amendment 1
    Marietje Schaake (Netherlands - ALDE) proposes to add the text in bold to the following paragraph:

    – having regard to its earlier resolutions, in particular the resolution of 23 October 2012 on trade and economic relations with the United States; and of 15 November 2012 on a digital freedom strategy in EU Foreign Policy,

  • 3. Amendment 67
    Helmut Scholz (Germany - GUE/NGL) proposes to replace:

    4. Notes the release of the HLWG Final Report and endorses the recommendation to launch negotiations for a comprehensive trade and investment agreement;

    by:

    4. Notes the release of the HLWG Final Report; recommends to postpone the decision to launch negotiations for a comprehensive trade and investment agreement until a high quality impact assessment has been prepared, and a transparent, informative and comprehensive consultations with all economic stakeholders and the civil society have been conducted, including among others trade unions, organisations from the agricultural sector, environmental organisations, organisations working on civil liberties, internet freedom and data protection, health costs, financial market regulations, and cultural diversity issues;

  • 4. Amendment 114
    Françoise Castex (France - SD) proposes to remove the following paragraph:

    11. Stresses that the agreement must include strong protection of intellectual property rights (IPR), including geographical indications; believes that other areas of divergence in IPR should be solved in line with international standards of protection;

  • 5. Amendment 121
    Marietje Schaake (Netherlands - ALDE) proposes to add the following paragraph:

    11a. Stresses that given the rejection of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), prompted by concerns about restrictions on digital freedoms and the open internet, online copyright enforcement, as well as intermediary liability, these measures should not be included or aimed at in the TTIP agreement, neither by explicitly binding provisions nor by introducing or committing to restrictive interpretation or implementation of relevant EU law;

  • 6. Amendment 115
    Henri Weber (France - SD) proposes to replace:

    11. Stresses that the agreement must include strong protection of intellectual property rights (IPR), including geographical indications; believes that other areas of divergence in IPR should be solved in line with international standards of protection;

    by:

    11. Stresses that it is essential for this agreement to guarantee maximum protection levels and the effective implementation of provisions concerning personal data and intellectual and industrial property rights, including geographical indications;

  • 7. Amendment 119
    Christofer Fjellner (Sweden - EPP) proposes to remove the text struck out, and to retain this paragraph:

    11. Stresses that the agreement must include strong protection of intellectual property rights (IPR), including geographical indications; believes that other areas of divergence in IPR should be solved in line with international standards of protection

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