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Countries release text of anti-counterfeiting pact
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An international pact to fight global trade in counterfeit and pirated goods moved closer to reality on Wednesday when countries participating in the talks released the final draft of the proposed deal.
“This text reflects tremendous progress in the fight against counterfeiting and piracy — a global crime wave that robs workers in the United States and around the world of good-paying jobs and exposes consumers to dangerous products,” U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in a statement.
China, the source of much of world’s counterfeit goods production, was not a party to the talks.
Kirk called on the nearly 40 participating countries to quickly finalize the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) after reaching a tentative deal last week in Tokyo.
“The leadership shown by our ACTA partners in reaching solutions on tough issues should send a strong message to pirates and counterfeiters that they have no place in the channels of legitimate trade,” Kirk said. One key feature of ACTA would mandate that customs officials in participating countries have authority to seize counterfeit goods without a request from the rights holder or a court order.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has estimated that global trade in counterfeit and pirated goods rose to about $250 billion in 2007 from roughly $100 billion annually in 2000.The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said it was still reviewing the final text but gave cautious support.
“Proactive policies such as ACTA are critical tools that will curb the growing tide of these illegal activities and help protect the industries that are accountable for over 40 percent of our exports, $5.5 trillion of our GDP, and employ over 18 million Americans,” the leading U.S. business group said.
The talks involved the United States, the EU and its 27 member states, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and two developing countries, Morocco and Mexico.
The trade in counterfeit goods ranges from fake designer handbags to auto parts to pharmaceuticals, and has been propelled by the growth in the Internet which has made it easier to bring buyers and sellers together.It also includes illegal copies of music, movies and software, which U.S. companies estimate costs them billions of dollars of lost sales every year.Digital rights and public health advocates have closely watched the talks, which some have feared could infringe on the rights of Internet users or disrupt trade in generic versions of life-saving medicines.The pact does not require approval by the U.S. Congress. However, each country must decide individually whether to sign the accord after a period of public discussion.
(Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Bill Trott)