This has been a remarkable two weeks for those tracking the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, as the proposed treaty has begun to attract attention at the highest political levels. The European Union has undergone the greatest change. First, the identification of the transparency holdouts led to a unanimous EU position favouring release of the text. This week, EC Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht stated: "I will see to it that at the next negotiating round, in April, the Commission will vigorously push its negotiating partners to agree to release the text." This leaves the U.S., South Korea, and Singapore as the remaining barriers to full transparency. Second, this week's European Parliament resolution places the European Commission on the defensive with respect to ACTA. The negotiations will continue, but Europe clearly faces internal challenges in the ACTA process.
The U.S. response to the European developments came yesterday, as President Obama reiterated his support for finishing ACTA. In comments on IP enforcement, Obama discussed the need to "aggressively protect" IP, pointing specifically to ACTA. The reference to ACTA was clearly meant to send a strong signal that the U.S. intends to continue its push for a treaty. Indeed, the U.S. has not changed its position on anything with respect to ACTA – it is one of the lone holdouts on the issue of transparency and its negotiating position on the text itself has not moved much through almost two years of negotiations. Consider the Civil Enforcement chapter, which was first proposed by the U.S. in July 2008 at the second round of ACTA talks in Washington. The recent leak of the latest version of the chapter shows that practically nothing has changed: