No trade-off for transparency, says Geist

US Trade Representative wants clean ACTA draft for public consumption

The office of the US Trade Representative has released a statement that, on the surface, supports greater transparency in ACTA negotiations, but in reality this is being offered as a trade-off for concessions by other countries, says Canadian law professor and avid ACTA critic Michael Geist.

"Increasing transparency in the ACTA negotiations, including providing improved means for public input into the process, is a priority for the United States," writes USTR spokeswoman Nefeterius McPherson.

See also: Latest leaked draft from March 23

"In this round of ACTA negotiations, the US delegation will be working with other delegations to resolve some fundamental issues, such as the scope of the intellectual property rights that are the focus of this agreement," she says

"Progress is necessary so that we can prepare to release a text that will provide meaningful information to the public and be a basis for productive dialogue. We hope that enough progress is made in New Zealand in clearing brackets from the text so that participants can be in a position to reach a consensus on sharing a meaningful text with the public."

The brackets McPherson refers to are indications in the draft that a point has not been agreed on; several bracketed versions of a clause are typically included in a text under negotiation, representing the contending points of view of the negotiating countries.

Talk of "resolving the scope of IP rights" can be read as a reference particularly to the position of the European Union, which is seeking a broader scope that includes patents alongside copyright and trademarks, says Geist.

"There is no reason to link ACTA transparency with the substance of the treaty," he writes on his website.

"The text of the treaty can be released without regard for the level of agreement on substantive issues. Yet unlike most other ACTA countries that have called for transparency without condition, the US has set conditions that effectively seeks to trade its willingness to release the text for gains on the substance of the text."

Geist is in Wellington for the latest round of ACTA negotiations. He took part in the PublicACTA conference last Saturday, that drafted a statement calling among other matters for greater transparency.

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