While the Canadian government has dutifully followed the U.S. line on ACTA with bland releases following each of the four 2008 negotiation sessions, newly obtained documents under the Access to Information Act reveal that the Canadian delegation may be speaking out on some of the public concerns that have been raised around transparency and the exclusion of many countries from the negotiation process [download here]. The documents include several noteworthy revelations:
First, the documents confirm that the leaked ACTA document from last year was indeed the ACTA Discussion Paper distributed among governments. At the time, there was some question as to whether this was an industry wish-list or a government document. The Canadian documents confirm that this was a government document, a suggested intervention notes that "we would like to raise the issue of communications. As you all know by now, the ACTA Discussion Paper has been leaked . . . "
Second, the documents reveal that Canada submitted two "non-papers" to the other countries in advance of the first round of negotiations last year. The two papers focused on (1) institutional and procedural issues to be addressed during the negotiations and (2) institutional issues following the negotiation of ACTA.
Third, the documents include suggested interventions for the Geneva meeting last June.
The suggestions reveal that, contrary to publicly stated positions on the Canadian ACTA FAQ that the process has not been kept from the public and that excluding other countries makes sense, Canada may be saying something different around the negotiation table. Proposed interventions include:
Canada is still committed to developing an ACTA which will contribute to addressing the global problem of counterfeiting and piracy, taking into account each partner's different interests and domestic systems.
We would also like to reiterate at this point the importance of considering the interests and needs of potential future ACTA partners in the context of our formal negotiations.
We have also held public consultations on ACTA in April and received around 30 submissions. We are currently still analyzing the comments received, but after a quick overview, we noted that the issue of transparency in the formal negotiation process is important for many of our stakeholders. Stakeholders have also requested additional information on the scope of the proposed ACTA, as well as further information on why the Agreement is being negotiated in this manner, as opposed to in existing multilateral fora such as WIPO or the WTO.
The briefing documents conclude with an indication that Canada would be interested in hosting an ACTA meeting in the coming year. While the document suggested Fall 2008, it does not appear that that offer has been accepted, though a Canadian-based round of ACTA negotiations could be on the agenda for 2009.