Yesterday a wondrous document appeared on the website of the Official Journal of the European Union: the Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the ‘New trade agreements negotiations — The EESC position’ (2008/C 211/21). Documents like this are precious because, while they have no legal force and receive little or no publicity in the mainstream media, they reflect the attitudes of Europe's rulers and the direction(s) in which their thoughts are next likely to wonder off.
The background to this Opinion is that, at its plenary session held on 26 September 2007, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) decided to draw up this new Opinion. The Section for External Relations, which was responsible for preparing the Committee's work on the subject, adopted its opinion on 1 April 2008. On 22 April, at its plenary sessons, the EESC adopted it by 101 votes to 6, with 7 abstentions.
On the issues closest to the hearts of the readers of this weblog, the EESC had this to say:
"7. Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) — and enforcementSo now we know ...
7.1 The Committee welcomes the emphasis in the Communication [i.e. the Commission's ‘Global Europe’ Communication of October 2006] on strengthening IPR provisions in the ways that are outlined, including in particular offering support to SMEs and others trading with the emerging economies. Developing the EU's strategy for protecting intellectual property rights and strengthening enforcement activity is essential if the EU is to meet its aim to reduce IPR violations and the production and export of fake goods. Enforcement is key here. The TRIPs agreement must be fully implemented by FTA [Free Trade Agreement] partners, thus a primary objective for the EU in concluding these FTAs should be to obtain solid commitments for concrete enforcement of existing IPR legislation together with sufficient control and measurement of results achieved, rather than aim for entirely new agreements. Europe's Research and Development capacity and capabilities, so rightly emphasised in the Lisbon Strategy, will be a significant factor in maintaining EU competitiveness in a world where strong economic challenge will increasingly come from outside Europe [the IPKat wonders, this paragraph seems to have all the right words in it, but does it actually say anything?].
7.2 In combating counterfeiting, the Committee urges the negotiators — especially with India — to discuss measures to protect consumers from the risks associated with counterfeiting. Follow-up to the agreement should include a joint EU-India committee on counterfeiting (as is the case with China).
7.3 Given that India is involved in the Heiligendamm process (launched in June 2007) between the G8 and the five emerging countries to create a structured dialogue on promoting innovation and protecting intellectual property rights, for civil society, it would be helpful for the bilateral negotiations to take account of the monitoring of this process".