A brief report from the European Commission authored by Pedro Velasco Martins (an EU negotiator) on the most recent round of ACTA negotiations in Guadalajara, Mexico has leaked, providing new information on the substance of the talks, how countries are addressing the transparency concerns, and plans for future negotiations. The document (cover page, document) notes that the Mexico talks were a "long meeting with detailed technical discussions, which allowed progress, but parties not yet ready for major concessions. Due to lack of time, internet discussions could not be concluded."
Start first with plans for future talks. Round 8 of the ACTA negotiations, which will be held in Wellington, New Zealand, are apparently now scheduled for April 12 to 16th. Countries plan a five-day round — the longest yet — with detailed discussions on the Internet provisions, civil enforcement, border measures, and penal provisions. Moreover, Round 9 will take place in Geneva, possibly during the week of June 7th. This aggressive negotiation schedule — three rounds of talks in six months — points to the pressure to conclude ACTA in 2010.
Secondly, transparency. The leaked document reveals that the summary document on ACTA is currently being updated by Canada and Switzerland, with release likely in March. The new document will deny rumours about iPod searching border guards and mandatory three strikes policies. There is no agreement about releasing the ACTA text, however (though more European Union members states favour its release). New Zealand is considering a stakeholder meeting during the next round in April as part of the transparency effort.
Third, the substance of the talks. The three main areas of substantive discussion were civil enforcement, border measures (called customs by the EC), and the Internet provisions. The Commission document states:
1. The civil enforcement chapter was discussed very thoroughly. It was possible to agree additional language, but when entering into the detail of the different mechanisms (provisional measures, injunctions, calculation of damages) progress became slow due to the different technical concepts of each legal system.
2. The customs chapter was discussed in detail for the first time in more than one year. Good progress on items like exemptions for personal luggage (a sensitive issue in the public opinion). EU proposing a more organised and logical structure of the chapter, not always well understood by others.
3. The internet chapter was discussed for the first time on the basis of comments provided by most parties to US proposal. The second half of the text (technological protection measures) was not discussed due to lack of time. Discussions still focus on clarification of different technical concepts, therefore, there was not much progress in terms of common text. US and EU agreed to make presentations of their own systems at the next round, to clarify issues.
Leaving aside the more personal comments (ie. others do not understand the border measures chapter structure), the leaked document is precisely what the negotiating countries should be providing to the public in the absence of an actual text. Rather than the mundane meeting statement that says nothing, this brief report includes far more detail on the substance of the talks and the plans for the future.
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