Anand Sharma accuses US of  ‘unacceptable protectionism’

Says the world’s largest economy is putting up excessive trade barriers and making it hard for Indian professionals to get visa; also brushes aside charges on intellectual property regime by US saying India is fully compliant

Anand Sharma accuses US of  ‘unacceptable protectionism’

New Delhi : The US is putting up excessive trade barriers and making it hard for Indian professionals to get visa, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said Tuesday.

Accusing the world’s largest economy of indulging in protectionism, Sharma said India would not accept such protectionist steps in the name of tougher intellectual property rights.   “There are issues which India has raised where we feel there is very high and unacceptable protectionism,” Sharma said at a media conference here.

Sharma also said the US has made it very hard for Indians to get visa, another protectionist measure hurting the economic engagements between the world’s two largest democracy.   The minister’s comments came ahead of the visit of a top US official. US assistant secretary of state Nisha Desai Biswal is on a three-day visit to India starting Tuesday.

Sharma also brushed aside the US allegations on intellectual property regime and asserted that Indian laws are fully compliant with international agreements and the country has never deviated from global practices. “When it comes to intellectual property rights (IPR), I must firmly put on record that India is signatory to Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and our laws are fully compliant with the agreement of the WTO. India has never deviated, never diluted (its law),” Sharma told reporters here.

Sharma was replying to a question that the US has alleged that India’s IPR norms discriminates American companies particularly in the pharmaceutical sector. The US had raised serious concerns over issuance of a compulsory license (CL) by India to Hyderabad-based Natco Pharma to manufacture and sell cancer-treatment drug Nexavar at a price over 30 times lower than charged by patent-holder Bayer Corporation.

Sharma said issuance of a CL is a flexibility available to all countries and India has used it only once after following a “due process” unlike the US which has issued such licences several times through executive authorities.

“India has never invoked (this facility) through an executive authority which India can. And in this (Nexavar) case also it was not the executive decision. The US has invoked executive decisions for CLs,” he said.

The Minister said over 80 CLs have been issued worldwide so far through executive orders but till now India has never adopted this route. “What is asked from India is TRIPS plus. India has made it clear that India will never accept TRIPS plus. India will adhere in letter and spirit to the multi-lateral agreement negotiated and signed,” he added.

Under the Indian Patents Act, a CL can be issued for a drug if the medicine is deemed unaffordable by the government and grants permission to qualified generic drug makers to manufacture it.

As per the WTO norms, a CL can be invoked by a national government allowing a company to produce a patented product without the consent of the patent owner in public interest.

He said the issue was raised by some American lobbyists in a particular sector “which is crucial not only for India but for every country of the world to ensure availability of life saving medicines at affordable prices to their citizens”.

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