U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab today unveiled an initiative for the United States and some of its key trading partners to negotiate what is being called an Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

During a press conference held on Capitol Hill, ambassadors from countries that will be part of the new initiative and members of the Congressional Caucus on Intellectual Property and Piracy Prevention joined Schwab to announce what they believe will be a major step in the fight against intellectual property rights (IPR) counterfeiting and piracy.

"Today launches our joint efforts to confront counterfeiters and pirates across the global marketplace," Schwab said.

The envisioned ACTA will include commitments by participating governments in
three areas: strengthening international cooperation; improving enforcement practices; and providing a strong legal framework for IPR enforcement.

Trading partners engaged in discussions with the U.S. government so far include Canada, the European Union (with its 27 Member States), Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand and Switzerland. Schwab said she expects other trading partners to join in the emerging consensus for stronger IPR enforcement and stressed that all countries, including developing countries, have a major stake in fighting counterfeiting and piracy.

The ACTA is expected to complement the Bush Administration's work to encourage other countries to meet the enforcement standards of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) under the World Trade Organization, and to comply with other international IPR

The ACTA will not involve any changes to the TRIPS Agreement, Schwab said. Rather, the goal is to set a new, higher benchmark for enforcement that countries can join on a voluntary basis.

In a joint statement, industry trade groups representing all facets of the music business applauded the USTR and her counterparts in the participating countries "for their dedication and vision in producing a blueprint for the kind of governmental response that is required to maintain the integrity of intellectual property protection in an ever changing and complicated environment."

Schwab added that the United States and its ACTA partners will work closely to complete the new agreement as quickly as possible.