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PM urged to reject US pressure tactics on trade, biz policies

By Lalit K Jha
March 28, 2014 12:40 IST
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American flagA group of India and American no-profit organisations and other groups have urged the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, not to succumb to the pressure of the US administration and reject the misleading allegations of US Business associations on India’s trade and economic policies.

The unilateral pressure by US administration on India, at the behest of US Business Associations lobby through US International Trade Commission investigations and request to USTR to enlist India under Priority Foreign Country under Special 301 review, lacks legitimacy under WTO framework, the signatories to the letter said.

Released in Washington on Thursday, the letter said the recent move of the USTR is also in conflict with WTO legal obligations and these unilateral pressure and threat of sanctions are in violation of legal obligations under WTO framework.

"Further these unilateral measures adopted by US to pressure India undermine the existence of WTO's dispute settlement mechanism," it said.

The letter urged the Prime Minister to challenge the legality of US Special 301 procedures at the WTO through its Dispute Settlement Body and continue to not cooperate with the USITC investigations nor meet any USITC officials.

It also urged the Prime Minister to pass the notification of Section 92 which will help expedite the compulsory license on patented medicines recommended by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

The letter asked the Indian Government to call upon the countries which are part of the BRICS to forge a united front against United States' unjustified unilateral measures.

Urging upon the Prime Minister to develop an alliance with like-minded countries like Brazil, South Africa and Thailand and defend the right of ‘our countries’ to use TRIPS flexibilities, the letter urged to continue to ensure the sovereignty of India to have the freedom to take all measures necessary for the health of our people.

"The multinational pharmaceutical lobby and US government are targeting India in order to collaterally prevent many other developing countries in using flexibilities to check the abuse of patent monopoly," the letter said.

"As you know, at present, developing countries such as South Africa and Brazil are in the process of amending their patent laws to incorporate provisions similar to India's patent laws to check patent abuse and enable access to affordable medicines," it said.

"Building up and strengthening of an alliance of like-minded developing countries at various international fora is of utmost importance to forge a united front to push back the threat of these illegitimate sanctions from the US government,” the letter said.

The key reason for these multiple attacks and increased lobby against India by US administration is the rejection of patent for Gleevec and for granting the first ever compulsory license for cancer drug Nexavar in India, the letter said.

In particular US Chamber of Commerce's Global Intellectual Property Center, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the Biotechnology Industry Organisation and Intellectual Property Owners Association have made submissions to USITC alleging India's intellectual property environment has declined and India's policies are harming US companies, it added.

According to the letter, the ongoing allegations by US industries against India's intellectual property regime and threats of unilateral sanctions by US has failed to consider the available flexibilities for every Member State under the TRIPS agreement and the 2001 Doha declaration on public health.

These have reinforced that every Member State has the right to make full use of TRIPS flexibilities to address public health concerns including access to affordable medicines, it added.

"It is pertinent to note that India's total health spending is abysmal and most health expenditure is private out of pocket payments.

"The major expenditure is on drugs priced exorbitantly when bought by patients from pharmacies of private doctors and hospitals," it said.

"One of the possible ways for government to ensure medicines are made available at affordable prices is to use TRIPS flexibilities to its fullest to enable availability of highly priced patented medicines at affordable price," the letter said.

"Apart from patients in India, millions of patients from both developed and developing countries depend on affordable generic medicines produced in India," it said.

Hence any law and policy change in India to minimise the use of flexibilities would not only have an impact on the health of people in India but also in many other countries which are dependent on Indian generic medicines, it added.

Image: The letter asked the Indian Government to call upon the countries which are part of the BRICS to forge a united front against United States' unjustified unilateral measures.

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Lalit K Jha in Washington
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Related News: WTO, India, USITC, TRIPS, USTR

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