EU wants new international anti-counterfeiting pact

BRUSSELS, Oct 23, 2007 (AFP) - The European Commission wants to negotiate a new anti-counterfeiting agreement with major trading partners including the United States, Japan and South Korea, the EU's trade commissioner said Tuesday, October 22nd.

Entrance of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) headquarters in Geneva - Fred Dufour/AFP

"A new international anti-counterfeiting treaty will strengthen global cooperation and establish new international norms, helping to create a new global gold standard on intellectual property rights," Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said in a statement.

The Commission, the EU's executive arm, wants an agreement so as to better protect European intellectual property around the world.

The initiative was swiftly endorsed by European industry groups as "an important tool" in tackling counterfeiting.

The anti-counterfeit pact foreseen by Mandelson would have three main planks: building international cooperation -- leading to harmonised standards and better communication between authorities; establishing common enforcement practices and creating a strong modern legal framework.

This framework should reflect "the changing nature of intellectual property theft in the global economy, including the rise of easy-to-copy digital storage mediums and the increasing danger of health threats from counterfeit food and pharmaceutical drugs," the Commission said.

Japan on Tuesday announced that it would be seeking a new treaty to toughen international standards and crack down on counterfeit goods and pirated software.

Japan, the world's second largest economy and a major exporter, will hold a first round of talks in Geneva this year with other concerned countries, a Japanese foreign ministry official said in Tokyo.

He added that nations contacted over the initiative included the United States, European Union members, Switzerland, New Zealand, Mexico and South Korea.

Twenty years ago, the counterfeiting problem affected chiefly the makers of luxury goods.

Last year, among the most popular counterfeit goods were cosmetics and personal care products and brand name foodstuffs and beverages, among the 130 million fake objects seized, an increase of 40 percent over the previous year.

There are also fake airplane parts, electrical appliances and toys.

"But most worrying is the booming trade in counterfeit medicines of which more than 2.7 million were intercepted at EU borders in 2006 and which are reckoned to account for almost 10 percent of world trade in medicines," the Commission said.

"Most of these fake drugs are headed for the world's poorest countries."

The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has estimated the value of global counterfeit goods in 2005 to be at least 200 billion dollars, while admitting that the figure could be several hundred billions of dollars higher.

European industry groups swiftly backed Mandelson's initiative.

Such an agreement "has the potential to be an important tool in the fight against counterfeiting and piracy," the Confederation of European Business said in a joint statement with three other industry groups.

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