[Ip-health] Reuters: India to block U.S. trade probes, ready for fight at WTO

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Wed Feb 26 05:35:28 PST 2014


India to block U.S. trade probes, ready for fight at WTO


NEW DELHI Tue Feb 25, 2014 5:44pm IST

(Reuters) - India has decided to block investigations by the United States
into its trade policies and patent laws, and prepare for a battle at the
World Trade Organization (WTO), a move that could escalate already-strained
tension between the two countries.

New Delhi is furious about a threat of trade sanctions made by the U.S.
Trade Representative's (USTR) office over its protection of intellectual
property rights (IPR), preference for domestic producers and non-trade

Ahead of a general election, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government
does not want to be seen as bowing to U.S. pressure, amid lingering tension
over the recent arrest and strip search of a female diplomat in New York
suspected of visa fraud.

On Wednesday, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) - which
represents about 50 U.S. business groups - asked the USTR to designate
India a Priority Foreign Country in its 2014 report.

"This designation appropriately would rank India among the very worst
violators of intellectual property rights and establish a process leading
to concrete solutions," NAM said in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative
Michael Froman.

The USTR is holding public hearings for its annual report due in April. The
report will provide details on nations denying protection of IP rights or
fair market access to U.S. firms.

India is widely perceived in Washington as a serial trade offender, with
U.S. firms unhappy about imports of everything from shrimp to steel pipes
they say threaten jobs, as well as a lack of fair access to the Indian
market for its goods.


This month, Washington said it was filing its second case at the WTO over
domestic content requirements in India's solar programme, which aims to
ease energy shortages in Asia's third-largest economy.

There are 14 past or current WTO cases between India and the United States,
whose bilateral trade in goods measured $63.7 billion last year, not
including the latest case.

India has since hardened its stance, instructing officials not to entertain
any request from the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) -
a quasi-judicial federal agency - to examine its trade practices.

India's trade ministry has also "advised" U.S Deputy Trade Representative
Wendy Cutler to put off a visit to India that had been scheduled for late
March due to the parliamentary election due in April or May, a senior
official told Reuters.

The official said India had asked for alternative dates for the visit,
possibly after the elections, adding that the decision was not linked with
the trade tension.


The USTR listed in a February 12 report markets in Delhi, Mumbai and
Hyderabad as being among the worst offenders globally for the sale of
pirated software and counterfeit goods.

A visit by the USITC delegation to meet officials from the Indian commerce,
industry, health, telecom and finance ministries has also been put on hold.

A USITC spokeswoman confirmed the delay, saying they were looking for
"other windows" for a visit, but declined to comment on the reasons for the

Newly appointed Trade Secretary Rajeev Kher, who pushed India's stand on
food security issues at a WTO meeting in Bali, as chief WTO negotiator, has
told his officials to tackle bilateral trade disputes preferably through
multi-lateral forums.

India has also urged President Barack Obama's administration not to fall
prey to special interest groups and consider trade issues in the context of
the wider economic and strategic relationship between the two countries.

Officials say any move towards putting India on a priority foreign
countries list would hurt bilateral relations.

"There are clear stresses in the India-US trade, economic relations," said
another government official who, like others who spoke to Reuters, declined
to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.

"If it is a strategic relationship, they should be looking at the larger

(Additional reporting by Krista Hughes in Washington, Frank Jack Daniel in
New Delhi; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Robert Birsel)

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