Obama Administration: ACTA Is Binding & Don't Worry Your Pretty Little Heads About TPP

the claim that this does not need Senate ratification appears to be incorrect

Obama Administration: ACTA Is Binding & Don’t Worry Your Pretty Little Heads About TPP
By Mike Masnick
Mar 7, 2012
We’ve covered how Senator Wyden has been pressing the administration on ACTA and TPP concerning the process behind both agreements. The State Department has now responded by admitting that ACTA is, in fact, binding on the United States.
Under international law, the ACTA is a legally binding international agreement. By its terms, the ACTA enters into force when at least six parties have deposited instruments indicating their consent to be bound. Accordingly, once in force for the United States, the ACTA will impose obligations on the United States that are governed by international law. As in the case of other international agreements, it is possible that Congress could enact subsequent changes in U.S. law that are inconsistent with U.S. international obligations.

That’s interesting, because it’s what many people had assumed (and what other signatories to ACTA have been saying), but actually contradicts earlier statements from the USTR suggesting that we can ignore parts of the agreement that we don’t like or which conflict with existing US law. It also means that, as we’ve been warning, ACTA dangerously restricts Congress from passing new laws that could push back on some of the worst aspects of copyright law. Sure, Congress could ignore ACTA, but there would be substantial problems if it were to do so. In other words, ACTA is binding on the US under international law… but not under US law. Of course, international law trumps US law here, so that’s kind of meaningless.
And yet, the administration still insists that it can pass and ratify ACTA without Congressional approval. In the same letter, the State Department says that it doesn’t see any problem in having the President approve ACTA without Senate ratification, because it doesn’t require any changes today. First of all, it’s not entirely clear if that’s true, and there are some areas where it is believed current ACTA provisions likely come into conflict with US law (though the USTR squeezes around this by saying that all depends on how you interpret the phrases in ACTA — which seems like an issue of piss poor drafting of the agreement by the USTR).
Either way, the claim that this does not need Senate ratification appears to be incorrect. The fact that it is restricting Congress’s ability to act on an issue which is Congress’s mandate (not the administration’s) suggests that there is simply no way that the President can sign ACTA without it being ratified by Congress. Even if it doesn’t force Congress to change laws today, it does unquestionably hinder Congress’ ability to change laws in the future.

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