The controversial ACTA agreement was rejected by the Parliament on 4 July, meaning it will not enter into force in the EU. British Labour MEP David Martin, who was responsible for steering the text through Parliament, asked MEPs to turn it down in his recommendation. We spoke to him before the vote took place about ACTA, lessons to be learnt and possible next steps.
How do you interpret the international trade committee voting in favour of rejection?
When it comes to a vote between commercial interests and civil liberties, the Parliament will always come down on the side of civil liberties. There was no-one against the idea of the EU defending its intellectual property. The debate was whether ACTA was the right vehicle to do that and the clear conclusion of the vote is that it is not.
What lessons can we learn from ACTA when negotiating a new international treaty on intellectual property?
It should be as open as possible. Law negotiated and pushed through in secret is usually bad law. Also the Commission needs to keep Parliament fully informed of each round of negotiations on trade matters and listen to what we are saying on each subject. When the European Parliament found out that the three strikes rule was potentially being included, we made it very clear that this would be unacceptable and that was dropped from the negotiations.
Had we been involved earlier, they might also have thought of having separate agreements for physical goods and virtual goods. If they had done that, then the one on physical goods would have gone through the Parliament with virtually no comment. Nobody accepts fraudulent medicines or fake Gucci bags coming into the EU. But the freedom of the internet was a much more sensitive issue.
What would have been the benefits and disadvantages of Parliament waiting for the ruling from the European Court of Justice on ACTA?
If you are in favour of ACTA, then it is a very rational thing to do. But if you're against ACTA, there is no point waiting for the ruling, because no matter what the court says, your position doesn't change.
What do you think of trade commissioner Karel De Gucht's suggestion to send ACTA back to Parliament with clarifications once there is a court ruling on the agreement?
Karel De Gucht is also a very eminent lawyer, so I was a little bit puzzled by his comments. No assurances the Commission could give to the Parliament would change a legal text.