NZ Govt pressing for greater transparency in ACTA talks

However, NZ has to respect the views of partner countries, says commerce minister Power

New Zealand officials are “pressing for greater transparency” in future Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiations, says commerce minister Simon Power.

The eighth round of negotiations looms in Wellington from April 12-16 and many critics, including Labour communications spokesperson Clare Curran, have questioned the lack of publicly available information.

In an emailed response to PC World, Power said New Zealand had to respect the views of negotiating partners when releasing information about the ACTA meetings but was pushing to release more detail in future.

He disputed media claims that the negotiations were being held in secret, saying agendas, reports and summaries for each of the seven previous ACTA rounds had been published on the Ministry of Economic Development website.

“As with any negotiation, however, it is important that when working towards an agreement on complex issues, participants are able to exchange views in confidence. For this reason, the participants in ACTA have agreed that the actual text under debate should be kept in confidence between the participants.”

ACTA did not focus on the private, non-commercial activities of individuals and would not impact on the internet experience of the average New Zealander, Power said.

“ACTA will not involve cutting internet access, and Internet Service Providers will not be made to filter or monitor their networks.”

Yesterday Curran said she was concerned that any multi-national organisation set up to oversee ACTA and settle disputes between member countries might “take power out of the hands of governments”.

But at a media briefing in Auckland this morning, New Zealand ACTA negotiators said the agreement was about setting a “best practice” benchmark for anti-counterfeiting enforcement and would not influence what constituted an infringement under domestic laws. The 11 parties involved in the ACTA negotiations account for more than 50% of all international trade. They are New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Singapore, Switzerland, Morocco, and the US.

Power said it was hoped that the negotiations would be concluded by the end of the year.

The full text of the final ACTA document would be made public and opened up for further submissions before it was voted on by parliament, he said.

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