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Rediff.com  » Business » India gets an earful from US on affordable healthcare issues

India gets an earful from US on affordable healthcare issues

By Nayanima Basu
November 26, 2014 08:47 IST
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US Trade Representative Michael Froman said access to affordable health care entails a large number of factors from rates, logistics to insurance reforms

The US asked India on Tuesday to take steps to aid affordable health care by looking beyond intellectual property rights (IPR) and compulsory licensing and addressing other concerns such as rate reduction, distribution of medicines and insurance coverage.

The discussion took place under the India-US Trade Policy Forum (TPF), which met here on Tuesday after a gap of more than four years, with both sides seeking to address outstanding issues concerning bilateral trade and investment.

The meeting was jointly chaired by Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and US Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman.

The TPF, which lasted for about one-and-a-half hours, was also attended by Rajeev Kher, commerce secretary; Amitabh Kant, secretary, Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP); J S Deepak, additional secretary, commerce department; and DIPP joint secretary D V Prasad, among others.

“We did discuss IPR in broad terms. On some of the more challenging issues like pharmaceuticals, we need to take a broad-based view of access to affordable health care and promotion of innovation. There is a lot that goes into access to affordable health care beyond intellectual property rights, beyond patents, beyond compulsory licences,” Froman said after the meeting.

The TPF was preceded by the first high-level meeting of the working group in IPR on Monday.

Froman said access to affordable health care entails a large number of factors from rates, logistics and insurance reforms, on which India needs to concentrate.

“Issue of access to affordable medicine is not only IPR… We are committed to promoting innovation and promoting affordable health care. We are focused on generics and maintaining cost efficient ways to access health care. But without innovation, there could be no generics,” the USTR added.

Froman said both sides  did not discuss the contentious “out-of-cycle reviews”, launched to review India’s IPR laws as part of the USTR’s Special 301 Report. In the report, the US has kept India in the “priority watch list” for having an allegedly weak IPR regime.

“It was a very good meeting. They (the US) have understood our position. We will meet more often... The dialogue will continue. It's not that the dialogue will take place a after four-year gap. It will be more often. We have expressed all concerns and addressed their issues,” said Kher.

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Nayanima Basu in New Delhi
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