Why The Chances of China Joining ACTA Or TPP Are Practically Zero
from the why-on-earth-would-it? dept
As Michael Geist and others have pointed out, ACTA is the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement without the main sources of counterfeits being involved — notably, China. This has required some skilful footwork on the part of ACTA supporters, who need to justify the ratification of a loosely-worded treaty with potentially harmful effects on Internet service providers, civil liberties and developing countries, but which doesn’t provide the key benefit claimed in its name.
Here’s how the European Union’s representatives tried to deal with this issue in a “statement on IP Enforcement Trends” made at the WTO Council for TRIPS:
ACTA is an agreement between a limited number of countries.
But it is a significant first step. It establishes a nucleus of countries that are committed to the highest standards of intellectual property rights enforcement. A nucleus that will grow. The World Trade Organisation had a different name, a weaker structure and only nine members when it started out in 1948. After Russia’s accession later this year, nearly all world trade will be bound by its rules.
We would have liked to have negotiated this agreement at a global level. That was not possible. But the countries who have joined us in this agreement will soon begin to see the benefits of good enforcement, in terms of investment and in terms of innovation.
Since the vast majority of ACTA’s participants already have “good enforcement”, the last sentence only makes sense if it’s referring to signatories like Mexico and Morocco. So is the EU seriously claiming that ACTA is going to lead to a flood of investment in those nations? If so, when? Immediately? In ten years? All-in-all, it seems a pretty dubious metric for the success of ACTA, and a poor incentive for others to join.
That’s especially the case for China, which probably needs investment less than any nation on earth, since its currency reserves are currently around the $3 trillion mark. But even if external investment isn’t much of an incentive, maybe there are others.
That wasn’t the case back in 2010, when China was unconvinced about the value of ACTA:
Causing particular concern to them [India and China] is the draft Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) being negotiated by Australia, Canada, the EU and its 27 member states, Japan, Rep.Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the US.
Briefly, China’s and India’s lengthy statements argued that ACTA and other agreements could:
- Conflict with TRIPS Agreement (a reference to TRIPS Art.1.1) and other WTO agreements, and cause legal uncertainty
- Undermine the balance of rights, obligations and flexibilities that were carefully negotiated in the various WTO agreements
- Distort trade or create trade barriers, and disrupt goods in transit or transhipment
- Undermine flexibilities built into TRIPS (such as for public health, and trade in generic medicines)
- Undermine governments’ freedom to allocate resources on intellectual property by forcing them to focus on enforcement
Of course that was two years ago, and ACTA has changed during that time. Perhaps China is more positive about it now. This is how it felt last week, when it was at that same WTO Council for TRIPS meeting:
China said many provisions of ACTA go beyond the TRIPS provisions.
Still not happy, apparently. But maybe China doesn’t like the Western bias of ACTA, which basically consists of the US and the EU, plus a few other smaller nations thrown in to give a semblance of globalization. Perhaps China will join TPP instead?
A recent article provides some insight into China’s attitude towards TPP, and its plans in this area:
For evidence of China’s vision for an integrated East Asian political economy — binding China, Japan, and Korea — look at remarks of China’s Commerce Minister yesterday in Beijing. Speaking at a press conference during the ongoing Chinese National People’s Congress, Minister of Commerce Chen Deming’s said of that Japanese entry into negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, if it happens, “Should not be allowed to influence progress on other types of cooperation in the East Asian region.”
Translation: Japan should give priority to and focus first on the talks being promoted by Beijing to create a regional Free Trade Agreement (FTA) which would closely bind China, Japan, and Korea.
In other words, far from contemplating joining TPP — and thus helping to address the same issues about that treaty failing to deal with counterfeiting in the same way that ACTA fails — China clearly wants to promote its own regional Free Trade Agreement (FTA) for leading East Asian nations. One reason is that China would be the clear economic heavyweight of that group, not the US as in ACTA or TPP.
That’s the key problem with the ACTA proponents’ vague hope that China will one day join a treaty it had no input on and which aims to shut down parts of its economy: ACTA would not only diminish China’s sovereignty in terms of limiting what laws it could pass, it would also undermine its attempts to strengthen China’s position as the undisputed regional leader in South-East Asia.
There is simply no benefit for China to join ACTA or TPP; and without China, both become largely pointless exercises.