What the US government tells European parliamentarians about ACTA

Sulka sez, "A Finnish MEP (Anneli Jäättenmäki) visited US and got told that given ACTA has been prepared entirely outside of Congress and isn't ratified, it's probably not legally binding towards US. The process has also been similar in other countries (Finland included), so it's questionable if the treaty has any power."

I visited Washington in the European Parliament, the Liberal andCentre Group Presidency with the beginning of the week. We met with U.S. Congressional representatives and financial experts. One of the most talked subjects had anti-counterfeiting agreement, Acta.

We heard some unexpected information. U.S. Congress senator responsible for ACTA foreign trade committee chairman Ron Wyden, said he'd tried to find out if Acta is binding towards US or not. Congress has been kept outside of the process for forming the treaty, and the senator has received no response to his inquiries.

We also got to hear that the U.S. government does not intend to give Congress a vote on the agreement as it would collapse in Congress, which is a pretty worrying rationale. According to the U.S. law, Congress always deals with international agreements.

The U.S. government characterized in a reply to Wyden that ACTA is a bilateral trade agreements and as such has no effect on U.S. law. The big question remains as to whether the Acta at all binding on the United States.

The European Commission assumes that Acta is binding on the signatory countries. ACTA's credibility is seriously at stake if its signatories can apply it as they see fit.

The EU Commission and the European Parliament have given ACTA to the EU Court of Justice for review. ACTA was negotiated in secret, and the parties have failed to tell the agreements content. It is right that the agreement's effects of fundamental rights of citizens are being reviewed.

This Agreement shall come into force only after ratification of the European Parliament and all Member States. Now the ratification of the Treaty appears to be rather distant matter.

Actasta uusia yllätyksiä


  1. I just love secret treaties negotiated without input from my representatives in our goverement. Exactly who is negotiating this treaty for my government, who said they could, who elected them, and more importantly when can I expect them to go to jail for attempting this end run.

  2. “ACTA is a bilateral trade agreements and as such has no effect on U.S. law”

    Isn’t this a pile of nonsense? Wouldn’t the agreement require the government to enact certain laws in order to meet it’s obligations under ACTA? Or are business/individuals somehow bound by trade agreements with no other legal support?

    1. Originally the treaty was basically a export  of DMCA to the world, but there was some tit for tat additions to add various artwork protections that currently do not exist in USA. End result is that while the original idea was that it would have no new US laws required, and so could be signed by the president without any debate, that may no longer be the case.

      Never mind that USA has a long backlog of treaties and such that various presidents has signed by has yet to be ratified and so has no real effect on USA. This even tho the signing may have been a big news item at the time, because it gave the impression that USA backed the ideas embedded in the treaty. I think the recent issue over various books being taken out of public domain was such a treaty finally being ratified and so put into legal effect…

    1. The same people who always negotiate treaties: lawyer working on the behalf of the Executive branch. Foreign relations (and implicit in that, a whole lot of foreign policy) is the President’s turf.  Nothing is binding with the force of law though until the Senate ratifies the treaty.  That treaty could require signatories to pass laws, so once ratified Congress as a whole would have to formulate, hear, debate, and pass some sort of bill. Obviously, the worst thing that can happen is that you get your partner states on board, put a treaty before the Senate, and they refuse to sign it. It’s happened before (hi, League of Nations), it’ll happen again.

      The thing is though, a lot of treaties don’t have any legal requirements. For example, START requires the Russians and U.S. forces to share information about level of arms, data from ballistic missile tests, etc., but that all boils down to a matter of many military policies and exercise of existing laws on classified information.  It’s an extremely important agreement, but the laws of the land are pretty much untouched.

      They’re saying ACTA is basically a routine trade agreement — like when the U.S. agrees to trade arms or food to another state in exchange for something else over a period of time — not even a treaty, and that it doesn’t need to be ratified because nothing will require the force of law.  That’s pretty much a lie, since I don’t think the Executive can live up to the obligations of the agreement solely with powers he already has, but that’s what they claim. They’re afraid to submit the agreement for ratification as a treaty because they’re pretty confident it’ll fail.

      And so we get a massive shell game where we try to get everyone on board, get a treaty passed  in several partner states first, comply with the obligations as much as possible (you know, as if we had actually signed the thing, but not enough that objections will be raised in court), then try to maybe pass a few laws down the road that make it easier to meet all our obligations, or even ratify the treaty later when Congress is on friendlier terms.

      Oh, and also remember that the President is allowed to make AND BREAK agreements with foreign powers pretty much at will. (Unless of course it would be illegal to do so, because a treaty has the force of law. An agreement does not.) So yeah, if I were a trade rep for a potential signatory country, I’d be a bitter worried too.

  3. So after all this behind door skullduggery in the service of big content, ACTA turns out to be all sound and fury, signifying of nothing?

    well, good.

    1. well, maybe. I wonder how many piles of cash one might have to have on hand to have a judge decide that it is nothing?

    2. I guess it might depend on where you are — if the US does not ratify it and change their laws, not that much practical effect, perhaps. If EU (and member countries) ratify it and create new legislation, might be a big change, depending on which country we’re talking about. And who knows what might come next, if the trend of steamrolling over fundamental rights is allowed to continue.

  4. All I get from that is that the US intends to ignore ACTA if it becomes inconvenient to do so- something they’ve done historically with other trade agreements. They will, on the other hand enforce it as much as they can in order to protect US interests. Mostly it means the only copyright law they’ll regard as being valid is their own.

    1. I don’t think it’s that cut and dried, but I do think the subtext here is that once ACTA is ratified, the US won’t necessarily sign on, but they WILL try to pass laws in the US to “harmonize” with “the rest of the world.” That is, it’ll be used as a cudgel to push some new SOPA/PIPA/for-the-children IP law.

  5. If it isn’t ever submitted to congress, then the US has not ratified and it has no effect on the US.  That part is not ambiguous.  At the same time this suggests some weird things going on with the US Trade representatives, particularly since the Obama administration is struggling to gain control over the US trade representatives, and Congress has so far refused to help.  Currently the Administration bill to consolidate the various trade representatives to one organization with a single chain of command to the President has stalled, and the attempts by the administration to appoint new trade representatives have been block in the Senate.

    1. In other words, the robber barons retains control. Why do i get the feeling that except for the suits, and the lack of visible six-guns on the hip (most places at least), USA is still the same place it was during the railway years?

  6. I was happy to learn our PM/chamber of reps refused to agree to this piece of poopoo yesterday .The Grand-Duchy of Luxemburg remains a place of relative liberty when it comes to the internet and related downloads, unless used for commercial purpose.
    Still working on indefinite preventive detention though.

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