Acting Out on ACTA
Avastin is a drug used to treat cancers of the breast, colon, lung, kidney and brain. The drug is one of the most widely used cancer drugs in the world, generating about $6 billion a year in sales.
Earlier this month, counterfeit Avastin was found in hospitals and medical clinics in the U.S. and Europe. The counterfeit Avastin contained salt, starch, acetone, and benzene, but none of the active ingredient cancer sufferers were counting on.
Unfortunately, counterfeit products are now commonly making their way into the hands and bodies of American consumers. Inspectors regularly find counterfeit circuit breaker boxes in homes, counterfeit brake pads sold for cars and trucks, and of course counterfeit medicines.
Of course, counterfeit products are a danger to the U.S. economy as well as consumer health. We lead the world in intellectual property goods, and that’s what’s being stolen by counterfeiters.
That’s why in recent years the U.S. government has stepped up its efforts to intercept counterfeit products and to prosecute those responsible. In addition, lawmakers are working to increase penalties and to create legal frameworks for prosecuting those who traffic in counterfeit goods.
Part of this effort is the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), a voluntary agreement negotiated over several years and signed by 31 countries. In the United States ACTA is a bipartisan effort negotiated during both the Bush and Obama administrations. It creates useful structures to enhance and streamline cooperation between signatory countries that will allow better coordination for interdicting counterfeit shipments and for prosecuting counterfeiters in a way that is entirely consistent with U.S. law.
Anti-IP activists oppose ACTA, just as they do any and all efforts to institutionalize IP protection. They complain that ACTA was “negotiated in secret,” and protest that critics did not have access to negotiators. Rather than making substantive arguments against the actual text of the agreement, they attempt to kill it by condemning the process.
Transparency in government is a virtue. Taxpayers deserve to know how government at all levels is spending the money, who are getting contracts, and how much their elected officials are getting paid.
But it’s disingenuous to argue that agreements between governments must be negotiated in public with opposition activists in the room, and it’s naïve for elected officials to fall for that argument. That’s not transparency—that’s paralysis. Treaties, defense compacts, and trade agreements have always been negotiated confidentially between governments.
ACTA should be judged on its merits, not on some false illegitimate-process charge created by opposition activists. And its merits are many.