Indian officials decline to meet US federal agency

NEW DELHI (TIP): Toughening its stand against the US, Indian government has decided not to meet the officials of the USITC, a federal American agency which has initiated a probe against domestic trade and investment policies.

“USITC officials are coming to India and they have sought meetings with officials of different ministries, including commerce and industry, finance and external affairs. But India has decided not to entertain them,” said an official. USITC has alleged that New Delhi’s trade and investments rules, particularly intellectual property laws, discriminate against US companies.

Last week, it conducted a hearing in connection with its investigation, ‘Trade, Investment, and Industrial Policies in India: Effects on the US Economy’. “The country’s IPR laws are fully compliant with international laws including WTO. If they have any issues with our laws, they can raise that in the WTO and at that forum we can have consultations with them,” the official said.

During the recent times, the Obama administration had been strongly criticizing India’s investment climate and IPR laws, especially in the pharmaceuticals and the solar sectors. The USITC has raised the matter of rejection of patent to Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Sprycel and Novartis’ Gleevec.

It has stated that Indian IPR laws are not Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) compliant under the WTO. Swiss pharma major Novartis AG had lost a legal battle for getting its blood cancer drug Glivec patented in India and to restrain Indian companies from manufacturing generic drugs. The Supreme Court had rejected the multinational company’s plea last year. India already figures on the US Government’s Special 301 Priority Watch List and there is also a proposal to include India in the list of America’s Priority Foreign Country.

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Under the US Trade Act, a Priority Foreign Country is the worst classification given to foreign countries that deny adequate and effective protection of IPR or fair and equitable market access to US persons relying upon IPR protection. The official also said that it appears from the communication of the USITC that their discussions may go beyond Special 301 matter and could cover a range of Indian legislation and policy.

“The US has no right to launch an investigation on Indian policies. India is a sovereign nation and it can enact and implement polices based on its national interest,” the official added. On February 11, the US dragged India to WTO on its solar mission plan. Besides, the Global Intellectual Property Center of the US Chamber of Commerce has ranked India at the bottom of 25 countries in terms of protection and enforcement of intellectual property practices.

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