MEPs have voted in favour of the controversial ACTA agreement, paving the way to its final adoption
The European Parliament on Wednesday adopted a resolution approving the final draft of the controversial ACTA trade agreement, despite anger over the agreement’s secretive negotiating process.
MEPs voted 331-294 to adopt the resolution, with 11 members abstaining. The vote clears the way for the text to face a final legal review at a meeting in Sydney, Australia from 30 November to 3 December. The EP must still hold a final vote to approve the measure.
In the resolution the EP called on the European Commission to confirm ACTA will not affect the basic freedoms ensured in existing EU legislation, which “is already considerably more advanced than the current international standards”.
The treaty has been criticised for going too far in its provisions to counter intellectual property infringement and in its penalties for infringement, but the EC has said the treaty is designed to work within the existing framework of EU law.
ACTA has also been criticised for the secretive way in which the text was negotiated, with publication of drafts beginning only near the end of the process. Negotiators published the final draft on 15 November.
La Quadrature du Net, an activist group critical of ACTA, criticised MEPs for failing to reiterate their earlier criticisms of ACTA in Wednesday’s resolution, and noted that there is still an opportunity for the agreement to be thrown out.
“This vote is a terrible blow to EU citizens,” stated La Quadrature du Net spokesman Jérémie Zimmermann. “We must keep in mind that the most important vote will be the forthcoming ‘consent’ vote, when the European Parliament will have an opportunity to reject ACTA as a whole. All citizens concerned with democratic law-making, the preservation of the online ecosystem, freedom of speech, privacy and access to medicines should work with their elected representatives to make sure that the European Parliament does not give its consent to ACTA.”
The final version of ACTA requires nations to include border searches, injunctions and fines in their enforcement measures, as well as the seizure of equipment used in suspected infringement activities.
The final draft also requires countries to take steps against online copyright infringement. Participants include Australia, Canada, the EU, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the US.
The treaty is intended to “assist parties to the agreement in their efforts to effectively combat the infringement of intellectual property rights, in particular the proliferation of counterfeiting and piracy, which undermines legitimate trade and the sustainable development of the world economy,” said the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) in a statement earlier this month.