Source: Economic Times
4 May 2014
NEW DELHI: The US extended an olive branch on India’s intellectual property rights regime by saying it will take a decision after the new government assumes office but New Delhi signalled its displeasure at the investigation into this not being closed by saying it will not cooperate in further enquiries.
The US Trade Representative (USTR) on Wednesday put off a decision on India’s patents regime in its annual Special 301 report and said it would hold an ‘out-of-cycle’ review of the case later this year.
A downgrade of India to Priority Foreign Country in the report would have opened it up to possible US trade sanctions against India.
The USTR Special 301 report was “a unilateral measure and the government of India has not agreed to be party to any such investigations,” commerce secretary Rajeev Kher said on Thursday.
“It is not a question of not cooperating. It’s a unilateral investigation–they can carry it out. It is not in my commitment to WTO that I should submit myself to an investigation. It is a unilateral process under their law… That doesn’t compel me to participate,” said Kher. USTR Michael Froman’s blog on his agency’s website was conciliatory in tone.
“The remarkable history of this bilateral relationship in just the last 20 years tells us that this is not only possible, but essential if the world’s two largest democracies are to demonstrate successfully the defining partnership that President Obama identified as a key feature of this century,” he said. “The election of a new government in India provides an ideal opportunity to turn areas of contention into areas of collaboration… In light of the election in India currently underway, we have decided to look to an Out-of-Cycle Review focused on India this Fall to evaluate our ongoing engagement on issues of concern with respect to India’s environment for intellectual property (IP) protection and enforcement,” he wrote.
Kher said India will continue to engage in dialogue while warning that any hasty decision by the US may undermine trade ties between the two countries.
“I must say that it appears to be a wise decision on part of the US to not hasten into a decision that would have adversely affected bilateral trade relationship and a larger economic engagement between the two countries particularly at a time when we are at a stage of political transition,” he said, adding India was on the right side on on the issue.
“India clearly believes that it is compliant with its commitments under TRIPS (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights). India has used flexibilities which are available to WTO members and that is entirely within the limit and commitments made by India under TRIPS and WTO agreements,” he said. Kher emphasised that the US cannot take any unilateral action against India in the form of trade sanctions, as any country needs to first get the matter settled at the WTO under the global grouping’s rules.
Froman blogged: “In announcing this year’s determination with respect to India, we are redoubling our efforts to seek constructive engagement that will both improve IP protection in India and support India’s efforts to achieve a decade of innovation and advance its legitimate public policy goals, including access to affordable medicines,” he said.
With inputs from PTI.