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Move to end drift in US ties

Critical issue

New Delhi, June 8: The trade officials of India and the US will soon meet to prepare the groundwork for ministerial level talks amid acrimonious exchanges over drug patents even a month ago.

“The deputy US trade representative (USTR) is expected to travel to India to prepare the groundwork for the upcoming ministerial trade policy forum meeting,” commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman had tweeted recently.

Wendy Cutler, deputy USTR, will meet commerce secretary Rajeev Kher.

Talks between the countries are held under the US-India Trade Policy Forum, an inter-agency collaboration led by the USTR. The forum has five focus groups — agriculture, investment, innovation and creativity (intellectual property rights), services and tariff and non-tariff barriers.

The focus of the talks seems clear — to repair the damage in sectors such as intellectual property rights.

In recent months, the US had raised concerns about India’s patent regime and drug safety issues.

The USTR as well as the US International Trade Commission had launched separate reviews of India’s trade and economic policies after American lobby groups from the pharma, telecom and solar energy sectors sought action against the policies followed by India.

The US pharma sector had alleged that the Indian intellectual property rights laws discriminate against American companies and violate global norms.

The office of the USTR stopped short of blacklisting India as a “priority foreign country” in its “Special 301” report on countries with lax intellectual property regimes.

India remained on the “priority watch” list with the US saying it will conduct an “out-of-cycle” review of the country’s patent regime after the formation of the new government.

If blacklisted as a “priority foreign country”, the US can impose sanctions on India. New Delhi had, however, said such unilateral sanctions were not compatible with the World Trade Organisation rules and could be challenged.

 
 
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