DELHI: The US government has criticised the “lack of transparency in Indian tax policies”, the insistence on compulsory local manufacturing in more than one sector and lack of protection of intellectual property rights (IPR).
All the same, it is willing to resolve the differences through talks, Nisha Desai Biswal, US assistant secretary of state for south and central Asian affairs said in a speech at the conclusion of her visit to meet Indian officials in New Delhi. Biswal, on a three-day visit to India, had met her counterpart in the ministry of external affairs and called on foreign secretary Sujatha Singh, who underlined the need for officials on both sides to expeditiously resolve outstanding issues. She also met business leaders in Banaglore to discuss joint efforts to promote innovation and strengthen US-India ties.
Making conciliatory noises, she said, “Like any trading partners, we do have our differences, and the willingness to talk about them indicates that we are, in fact, confident, mature partners … We’re addressing these concerns head-on as good partners do – either bilaterally in our long-established dialogues or multilaterally through the World Trade Organization (WTO).”
Biswal’s comments is part of the escalated differences between the two countries that had led to Indian companies like Ranbaxy (fully) and Wockhardt (partially) being blocked off from the US, the world’s largest market for generic drugs.
While India has claimed the blockages were unfair, the US government has retorted that it will ensure all products entering its shore conform to its domestic standards.
Commenting on Biswal’s speech, Abhijit Das, head of the Centre for WTO Studies at New Delhi, said, “The US is telling other countries not to follow the Indian precept in patent issues. Brazil and South Africa are, for instance, appreciative of out stance and this speech is an attempt by Washington to talk to them too.”
Biswal’s visit is part of the series of top-level US official’s visit to New Delhi in recent months. US Food and Drugs Administration chief Margaret Hamburg visited India recently to meet commerce minister Anand Sharma and Drugs Controller General of India, GN Singh, among others. She also made it clear that the US will not accept any dilution of its drug manufacturing laws to take Indian concerns on board. The US plans to designate India as a ‘priority foreign country’ in this regard in its 2014 Special 301 Report, which is expected to be out by April-end.
The designation means that India would be clubbed with the worst offenders of intellectual property rights and set off trade sanctions on India’s $4.5 billion of exports to the US. Already the US International Trade Commission (USITC) and the US Trade Representative (USTR) has threatened to take New Delhi to WTO on trade and investment policies like solar energy and IPR regime. India, on its turn, has said its policies are compliant with the WTO norms and has refused to go for bilateral discussions.
However, Biswal said, “We need to have very real conversations.”
New Delhi: Industry body Ficci has voiced concerns against attempts being made by the US to get India designated as a ‘priority foreign country’.
“The effort being made to declare India as priority foreign country is a unilateral action to create pressure on India to increase IPR (intellectual property rights) protection beyond the TRIPS Agreement and aims to protect corporate interests over national interests,” it said.