FULL TEXT: In this submission the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance comments on whether Australia should participate as a third party in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) dispute settlement panel requested by the United States concerning the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights by China.
The Alliance is aware of the disputes in question and is aware of justifiable concern regarding levels of counterfeiting and piracy in China.
However, the Alliance is not convinced that Australia's best course of action to address their members' concerns and those of the audiovisual and cultural industries more broadly is to join the United States' dispute as a third party.
The Australian Government is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with China. The Alliance considers that Australia's concerns regarding the manner in which Australian interests are being negatively affected by lack of enforcement of intellectual property rights is best addressed in the course of the negotiation of this agreement.
The Alliance is aware that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has held a number of workshops and seminars on a range of issues, including intellectual property, as background to the negotiations and that this approach is proving to be a productive one. By contrast, joining the dispute as a third party might mitigate against the collaborative and capacity building approach that the Department has adopted in the trade agreement negotiations.
Further, the Alliance understands that Australia's copyright legislation has been changed at the behest of the United States in the wake of the concessions made in the United States – Australia Free Trade Agreement but is not supportive of the consequent amendments. In particular, the Alliance was not supportive of the introduction of criminal sanctions and the extension of copyright term. The Alliance considers that determination of legal thresholds and the availability of criminal procedures and penalties is a matter for individual nations to determine subject to compliance with obligations under TRIPS.
Finally, the Alliance is aware that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has a very large workload supporting the range of trade negotiations currently underway. The Alliance considers that the Department's resources are best directed towards a successful conclusion to the current Doha Round and then towards addressing the current bilateral and plurilateral trade agreements in negotiation. Joining the United States dispute would put pressure on resources that could be better utilised elsewhere and in respect of the substance of the dispute Australia's interests will be better served through the course of the negotiations for the free trade agreement with China, as indicated above. Certainly, the United States is well place to pursue its own trade objectives unassisted.