[Ip-health] News: Express Pharma- India's dispute at the WTO

Terri - Louise Beswick Terri at haiweb.org
Mon Aug 30 03:59:06 PDT 2010

India's dispute at the WTO


It is now more than three months since May when, the Indian government
formally filed a complaint with the WTO on the seizure of generic
medicines in transit via ports and airports by EU customs authorities.
In the first stage of the dispute resolution process, which goes on for
six months, there are consultations between the aggrieved party (in this
case India) and the EU to resolve the dispute amicably. India's argument
is that EU domestic regulations and the seizures are inconsistent with
the obligations of the EU under certain articles of GATT and various
provisions of the TRIPs Agreement.


The argument has found its supporters among many countries, both on the
generics supplier as well as user side. Brazil joined the consultations
as the consignments seized were meant for import into Brazil from India.
And in addition, Brazil fears that it could suffer the same fate in
future as it is also an exporter of generic medicines.


Similarly, Ecuador too filed a request to join the consultations because
it "has a substantial trade interest" in these consultations as
shipments of generic drugs destined for the country have been seized in
transit in the EU in the past two years. Ecuador is also concerned that
these measures could adversely affect the shipment of drugs destined for
Ecuador in the future.


Canada, which has always supported efforts to increase access to
medicines, sought to join the consultation on grounds that it "has a
substantial trade interest in these consultations, as it exports 40
percent of generic drugs manufactured in Canada to over 120 countries."


By the end of May, three more countries (China, Turkey, and Japan)
requested to join the consultations. China is a significant exporter of
APIs to India and Latin America, like India, is also a big producer of
generic drugs and therefore the resolution of this dispute could affect
trade in these countries as well.


Japan, on the other hand, is most probably on the other side of the
battle. It was the principal country that proposed the ACTA to other G8
members, which have deliberately sought to prevent trade in legitimate
generic medicines between countries - mainly between India, a key
producer of essential medicines and other developing countries in Africa
and Latin America. These provisions of ACTA on border measures are
similar to EU's domestic regulations.


The main bone of contention is that the definition of 'counterfeit'
formulated by the International Medical Products Anti-counterfeiting
Task force (IMPACT), is unacceptable to India. The seized consignments
had legitimate products manufactured under a drug license valid in the
country of origin and in the destination country, and therefore did not
threaten the life of the patient. They were seized only because the
country of transit alleged that they infringed on the IPR rights or
trade mark or violated the patent rights of the innovator products.


Support from countries like Brazil, Ecuador and Canada surely validates
and strengthens India's stand and broad-bases the discussions, but
whether this will have any effect on the outcome of these consultations
remains to be seen.



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