Ask First, ACTA Later

Kim Weatherall notes that the Australian government has launched a public consultation on its possible involvement in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement negotiations.  Unlike the Canadian government, which jumped at the chance to join the U.S. in the negotiations with no advance warning and no public discussion, the Australians are taking the time to ask the public whether it thinks the country should participate in the negotiations, whether change is needed, and, if they participate, what should be avoided. The consultation includes a background document (which interestingly makes no mention of Canada's participation) that provides far more information on the process than the Canadian government has told its own citizens.  For example, it reports that:

The ACTA is at a very early stage, with a first round of pre-negotiation technical discussions held on 4 October 2007. Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, the EC, the US, Switzerland and others attended these discussions in Switzerland. A second round of technical discussions is scheduled for the first week of December. No date has yet been set for beginning formal negotiations, although this is likely to occur in early 2008. No draft text has yet been prepared. Early negotiations are likely to include the same countries as above, with more countries likely to participate as negotiations continue.

The background document also notes that Australia has been recognized by the OECD as having a low incidence of intellectual property rights infringement.  While you would never know it from the rhetoric of some lobby groups and even our own MPs, Canada actually ranked even lower than Australia and the U.S. in the OECD's General Trade Related Index of Counterfeiting.  Australia may join the ACTA discussions, but at least it is adopting an open, transparent process where the public is both informed and invited to provide their views.  Canadians should demand the same.

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