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AKIPRESS.COM - The U.S. government is coming under intense pressure from lawmakers to act against India at the World Trade Organization (WTO) for what they say are violations of patent rules. The tough stance adopted by U.S. lawmakers raises the pressure on the new Indian government to swing into action to check against potential damage to bilateral trade ties, which have taken a knock in recent months, The Times of India reported.
The demand to move the WTO was made during a meeting of the Senate finance committee on the U.S. administration's trade policy agenda last Thursday, a day after the U.S. Trade Representative released a report where it refused to downgrade India for its intellectual property rights (IPR) regime.
Clearly, the U.S. senators were not satisfied with the response and attacked their government for letting several developing countries, including India, China and Brazil, steal a march. “In 1990s, India and China had limited technical capacity. Now, they can use highly technical standards to advantage their domestic firms and extract American company's intellectual property for their own use. And it's a shakedown, plain and simple,” said Ron Wyden, who chairs the U.S. Senate finance committee.
“India's been pursuing trade policies that undermine U.S. intellectual property to promote its own domestic industries. What they are doing seems to me to be a clear violation of their WTO obligations... enforcement action at the WTO may be the most effective tool that we have to get India to change its behaviour,” said Orrin G. Hatch, a Republican from Utah.
In response, USTR Michael Froman said the authorities were concerned “about the deterioration of the innovation environment in India” but was awaiting a dialogue with the new government so that the concerns could be addressed.
He specially flagged two concerns, patents and compulsory licensing, issues that are of special interest to global pharmaceutical giants, which have been lobbying with the U.S. authorities as well as with lawmakers. “We've been encouraging them to enter into a dialogue about other mechanisms for addressing legitimate concerns about healthcare in India and about access to medicines that do not violate our IPR,” Froman said.
Although the Indian government has indicated that it is open to a dialogue, it wants the agenda to include other areas of interest as well. At the same time, officials have ruled out any violation of India's international commitments on IPRs, arguing that it issued a compulsory license, which means it waived a company's patent rights, over a cancer drug for affordability.