[Ip-health] Reuters: India invites U.S. to discuss IP, market access after election

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Thu May 1 04:00:26 PDT 2014

India invites U.S. to discuss IP, market access after election


NEW DELHI Thu May 1, 2014 6:28am EDT

(Reuters) - India <http://in.reuters.com/?lc=int_mb_1001> said on Thursday
it would hold trade talks onintellectual
with the United States after its general election, buying time to address
friction over drug patents until a new government is formed.

Commerce Secretary Rajeev Kher praised a decision by the U.S. Trade
Representative not to label India <http://in.reuters.com/?lc=int_mb_1001> with
its worst offender tag in an annual scorecard on protecting U.S. patents,
copyrights and other intellectual

"It is a very sensible decision," Kher, India's chief trade negotiator,
told Reuters, saying India was committed to protecting copyrights and
reining in piracy. "They know very well that India is in transition."

But he defended India's right to overrule patents in
- a bone of contention between the U.S. drugs industry and New Delhi, which
wants its 1.2 billion people to have access to affordable medicines.

India and the United States set great store by the
of bilateral ties, but their relationship has been troubled by diplomatic
and trade battles.

Their $100 billion annual trade is seen as below its potential. Washington
says it should be five times that.

In 2012, India issued its first-ever "compulsory license" to domestic
drugmaker Natco Pharma Ltd on a kidney and liver cancer drug, Nexavar,
patented by Germany's Bayer AG - allowing a generic version to be made
before the patent<http://www.reuters.com/subjects/top-100-global-innovators?lc=int_mb_1001>

Compulsory licensing is compliant with the rules of the World Trade
Organization and the deal on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual
(TRIPS), Kher said, emphasizing that such licenses would be the exception
and not the rule.

"That should not be construed to mean that India would be taking compulsory
license as a routine manner of importing technology into the country," Kher
told a news conference.

India's drugmakers welcomed the easing of near-term U.S. pressure: "There
is always scope for improvement," said D.G. Shah, secretary general of the
Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance.

"This can be done through a process of constructive dialogue, not by
holding a gun to the head." With Indian markets on holiday, there was no
price reaction by drugs stocks.


The United States on Wednesday kept India on its Priority Watch List along
with China <http://www.reuters.com/places/china?lc=int_mb_1001> and eight
other countries. It said it would start a special review of India in the
fall and address concerns with the next government.

Kher said he would meet his U.S. counterpart in June or July, with a
bilateral meeting between the two governments to follow. Top bureaucrats
such as Kher are not political appointments and usually remain during
changes of government.

India is in the middle of a five-week general election in which the ruling
Congress party-led government is likely to suffer a severe defeat at the
hands of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Results are
due on May 16.

The BJP's candidate, Narendra Modi, was shunned by the United States for
years after a deadly spasm of religious violence in Gujarat in 2002, early
in his term as chief minister of the state. Washington revoked Modi's U.S.
visa in 2005 and only recently signaled he would be welcome to visit if

It is not yet known what the BJP's stance will be on global trade issues.

"The party is very clear that India's interests will be protected with
rigor," said BJP spokesman M.J. Akbar, but added that precise policies
could only be decided after the election.

Like other emerging markets, India is battling to contain healthcare costs
and boost access to drugs to treat diseases such as cancer, HIV/AIDS and

Indian firms such as Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd, Wockhardt Ltd and Sun
Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd produce 40 percent of generic and
over-the-counter drugs sold in the United States.

Western drugmakers, including Pfizer Inc, Novartis AG, Roche Holding AG and
Sanofi SA, in turn covet a bigger share of the fast-growing drugs market in


But they have been frustrated by a series of decisions on patents and
pricing, part of New Delhi's push to increase access to treatments in a
country where only 15 percent of people have health insurance.

Some U.S. lawmakers and lobbyists say the approach sets a precedent against
intellectual property rights and want sanctions on India to deter others
from following its example.

The USTR said India's limits on the approval of pharmaceutical patents, a
convoluted process for
and the fact that the government was considering opening a series of
patented drugs to generic manufacturers created "serious challenges" for
some innovators.

But advocates for health rights say India is not breaking any rules and see
the country as a global leader in providing life
to the poor.

(Additional reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh, Shyamantha Asokan in New Delhi
and Zeba Siddiqui in Mumbai; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Douglas

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