A European Parliament Committee rejected the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) yesterday (21 June) despite pro-business lobbying by Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, who insisted that Parliament should not decide before the European Court of Justice gives its opinion. A final vote in the full Parliament is expected on 4 July.
The International Trade Committee voted 19-12 to reject ACTA, making it the fourth Parliamentary panel in less than a month to do so.
The vote took place following a strongly worded speech by De Gucht made in Parliament the previous day, in which he said that he expected the court to find that ACTA conforms to EU treaties. If the court does rule in favour of the treaty, the commissioner said he would make a second request for consent to the European Parliament.
It is unclear when the Court would issue its ruling, but such a procedure could well take two years.
“Whether the Parliament will consider it under this legislature or the subsequent one will be for you to decide,” he said.
Parliament divided along traditional political lines
The committee vote marked a clear division among political groups. The Socialists, Liberals, Greens, and the leftist GUE/NGL rejected ACTA, while the centre-right European Peoples Party, the largest group in the European Parliament, together with the conservative European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, argued in favour of waiting for the court decision before holding a vote in plenary.
MEP David Martin (S&D, UK) , who replaced Kaded Arif as Parliament rapporteur on ACTA since the latter joined the new French government, welcomed the outcome.
“I am pleased that the committee has acknowledged the problems I have identified in my report and has followed my recommendation to reject ACTA," he said.
His like-minded colleagues they were expecting heavy pro-ACTA lobbying to continue.
The Liberal ALDE group highlighted that they had played a significant role by rejecting the ACTA agreement, as without them the vote was going to be a close call. Party officials also said the votes held so far were politically significant because the Parliament rejected an agreement already signed by the Commission.
The anti-EU UKIP party of Nigel Farage also voted to reject ACTA.
Five associations of the manufacturing and creative sector – UNI MEI, INTA, BASCAP, ISFE and IFPI – urged MEPs in a statement “to restore balance and honesty to the debate” ahead of the 4 July vote.
“If Parliament should reject ACTA, it will send a negative signal to Europe’s trading partners and to investors around the globe, especially since much of the debate to date has been fuelled by unfounded rumour and misinformation,” the statement said.