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Canada kowtowing to U.S. with new anti-counterfeiting legislation

Council of Canadians asks what else Harper conceded to join TPP

Ottawa – The Council of Canadians is asking whether anti-counterfeiting legislation introduced in the House of Commons last week is one of the conditions the U.S. government put on Canada joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations, which continue in Singapore this week. The social justice organization sees no other reason why Canada would voluntarily bring itself in line with an Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) that has been rejected by many of its original signers, including the European Union and Mexico.

“The timing of the Canadian anti-counterfeiting legislation is suspect, coming the same day the United States released a new trade policy asking Canada to bring itself in line with ACTA, and only days before another TPP negotiation was set to begin in Singapore where the U.S. is also pushing ACTA-like reforms onto reluctant participants,” says Stuart Trew, trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “Was this new law one of the conditions that the Obama administration put on Canada’s entry to the TPP talks last year? What other legislative surprises should we look forward to as these increasingly controversial TPP talks move forward?”

The Council of Canadians is demanding a thorough parliamentary and public review of the Harper government’s new anti-counterfeiting legislation to make sure it is necessary and proportionate to the government’s stated objectives of protecting Canadians from counterfeit products. The organization also joins with international trade justice activists and health advocates in demanding that intellectual property rights be taken off the CETA and TPP negotiating tables.

The Harper government tabled its Combating Counterfeit Products Act on March 1, to “provide the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) with the authority to take action against the commercial movement of counterfeit goods at the border, and will also include new criminal offences for commercial trademark counterfeiting,” according to a government press release. The legislation asks border and customs officials to enforce private intellectual property rights on behalf of big entertainment and other companies as envisioned in ACTA. The same day Canada’s legislation was tabled, the United States Trade Representative released a 2013 trade policy document that includes a section on changing Canada’s copyright and intellectual property legislation.

U.S. drug maker Eli Lilly is challenging Canada’s pharmaceutical approval process before a NAFTA investment tribunal, claiming $100 million in damages from a court decision to invalidate a patent for the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drug Straterra. The U.S. trade policy document appears to side with the company without taking issue with the use of NAFTA’s investment protections to enforce World Trade Organization rules on pharmaceutical patent terms and drug regulation. Canada’s “promise doctrine” for approving drug patents is much stronger than either the U.S. and EU approvals process and should not be dismantled to satisfy either country, says the Council of Canadians.

“Extending patent protections and other pharmaceutical monopoly protections for brand name drug companies is extremely controversial in the Canada-EU free trade talks,” says Trew. “The Harper government seems to have just collapsed in front of U.S. demands for border enforcement of Hollywood’s intellectual property rights despite the global controversy with ACTA. Can we expect Harper to bend this easily to European demands in CETA and U.S. demands in the TPP that will increase the price of drugs and undermine access to affordable medicines?”