Media: Push for EU-US FTA could restart discussions about IPRs - IP Watch

Monika Ermert, Intellectual Property Watch, 04.02.2013 The high-level Munich Security Conference this weekend saw a considerable push for going forward with a Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA). Both US Vice-President Joe Biden and German Minister of Foreign Affairs Guido Westerwelle said such an agreement is within reach. But according to experts, negotiations also could re-open discussions on intellectual property protection. Biden said the agreement “would be good for growth, job creation, and be good on both sides of the Atlantic.” Europe already is the largest economic partner with over $600 billion in annual trade and a five trillion dollars overall commercial relationship, “but the potential is so much greater.” Westerwelle said. “Time is ripe for an ambitious project, time is ripe for a common transatlantic market.” Mareitje Schaake, member of the Liberal Party Group in the European Parliament, confirmed both sides are looking for a position and momentum to get the negotiations started. Contrary to earlier attempts to reach an agreement with an unresolved economic crisis in Europe and the US there is lot of interest in looking for growth without a need to invest. “For the economies broadly there is something to gain, mathematically. Purely economically, it benefits large parts of society,” she said. A working group in the Parliament had been talking with the EU Commission about a TAFTA for a year, without a formal process in place. Schaake saw this as a sign of a better involvement of the Parliament in trade up front. Schaake acknowledged that there will be “extremely painful moments and issues” once the negotiations are underway. “In negotiations you always win some and lose some,” she said, and singled out agriculture and intellectual property as controversial topics. It is not true, however, that the US and the EU are divided over IP, she said. Instead, the “division lines run right through both societies,” she said, and “everybody who is looking at IP protection today has to acknowledge that it needs to be reformed to be more relevant and legitimate.“ Being part of a larger, comprehensive package, special provisions in the IP chapter might not be made a make-or-break issue for a TAFTA, unlike in the debates about the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič and Eamon Gilmore, speaking for the Irish EU presidency today at a press conference alongside a Council meeting, confirmed that Biden’s Munich statement was seen a positive sign with regard to the prospect of taking the negotiations to the next level. EU Commissioner Karel de Gucht currently is on a mission in Canada and the US to talk about the FTA negotiations. Gilmore said the EU-US trade agreement is a priority of the Irish presidency. The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure warned that besides “dreams of a gold standard in areas such as IP protection” an EU – US trade agreement would also “give a boost to expropriation trolls, the more evil kid brothers of patent and copyright trolls. Expropriation trolls abuse arbitration tribunals to attack legislative reforms and demand high damages.”