Indian elections influenced US decision on Special 301 Review

WASHINGTON (TIP): The desire of the Obama Administration to start its relationship with the new Indian government after the general elections on a positive note is believed to have been one of the major reasons for the US Trade Representatives not putting India on its punitive Priority Foreign Country list, says PTI report. This was despite intense pressure and lobbying efforts in this regard by a section of the influential American businesses. By taking such a decision, it is understood that the long-term strategic relationship with India, which US President Barack Obama has described as the defining partnership of the 21st century, prevailed over the short-term goal of addressing the issues of alleged violation of intellectual property rights inside India and Indian policies with regard to pharma sector, which has angered the strong American pharma lobby and a section of the US lawmakers. For not naming India as a Foreign Priority Country, the Obama Administration is expected to receive a lot of flak from the pharma sector and also at the Hill. In a statement, the USTrade Representative said in the coming months, it will redouble its efforts to seek opportunities for meaningful, sustained, and effective engagement on IPrelated matters with the “new government”, including at senior levels, the report said. “India remains on the Priority Watch List in 2014. In making this determination, the US recognizes not only the concerns…, but also the critical role that meaningful, constructive, and effective engagement between India and the U S should play in resolving these concerns,” US Trade Representative said in the 2014 Special 301 report. It is learnt that Froman, on taking such a decision, argued that the Administration would like to make sure that whoever the new government is can be engaged in a constructive manner. Putting India at this point of time in the middle of elections, and weeks ahead of formation of the new government, would not serve any purpose and in fact would have an adverse impact on establishing a positive and constructive relationship with the new leadership in New Delhi, it was argued. From day one of the Obama Administration, Froman – in his previous capacity as the Deputy National Security Advisor – has been a strong advocate of India US strategic relationship and has played a key role in the shaping the economic ties between the two countries in the last five year, during which the bilateral trade has increased significantly. The USTrade Representative also clarified that the out of review cycle is not “revisiting” India as a Priority Foreign Country or a short-term arrangement, neither an effort to continue the pressure building tactics for the new government in India.

This is to “evaluate the nature and depth” of the India US relationship, Froman is believed to have argued while taking such a decision. The out of cycle review is expected to be completed in the Fall. While the USTR report makes it clear that the American concerns about certain Indian policies remain, but its decision was driven by the consideration that it should not create difficulties for new government.

Declaring India as a Priority Foreign Country, it was felt, would have a “negative and adverse” impact on the relationship with the new government, which is not the objective of the United States, it was argued. As the USTR was going through its motion of Special 301 Review, the Indian Embassy is understood to have conveyed to its counterparts in the US Government on the negative impact that such a decision would have on India-US ties. The Indian Ambassador of India, S Jaishankar, is believed to have met Froman several times in the past few months.

In the past few months, Jaishankar is believed to have had a series of meetings with lawmakers, who had raised the issue in the past, and also with representatives of the American businesses, in particular those from the pharma sector and IPR. In all these meetings, the Indian diplomat is understood to have articulated that putting India on the list of Priority Foreign Country was not in the best interest.

This might also result in retaliatory steps from India, he is understood to have cautioned. He is believed to have said that going public with its differences rather than attempting it to resolve quietly through sitting across the table, is not the best way to address differences with a strategic country like India.

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