Will not go beyond TRIPS; more negotiations ahead

India wíll not tighten laws on intellectual property or go beyond the global intellectual property agreement, TRIPS, in the free trade agreement (FTA) being negotiated with the European Union.

Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, after his meeting with EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht in Brussels on Monday, ruled out going beyond the TRIPS pact or changing Indian laws. This would put to rest speculation that flexibilities offered to the EU may make life-saving drugs unaffordable in the country.

TALKS to continue

The two decided to hold a fresh round of negotiations to sort out differences that still exist in areas such as intellectual property, foreign investment limit for insurance, increased market access in goods including cars, alcohol and cheese, and more number of visas for professionals, “The chief negotiators will remain engaged and the next Ministerial meeting is scheduled for June,” a Commerce Department release said.

India’s negotiation for a broad-based trade and investment pact with the EU that accounts for a fifth of the country’s total exports was launched in 2007.

The civil society, including non-governmental organisations and lawyer groups, had been alleging that India and the EU were secretly trying to tighten India’s IPR regime to accommodate interests of European pharmaceutical majors.

The measures that the two sides were allegedly negotiating were an enforcement regime that would allow EU countries to seize consignments being shipped by India to third countries on suspicion of IPR violation and international arbitration on matters concerning patents. This would mean cases like Novartis will be tried outside the country.

While Sharma’s assurance does indicate that India would finally not succumb to pressure, the EU would not stop trying.

Sharma told Gucht that it was important for India to get a good package in services, especially easing movement of Indian professionals. He stressed on the need to declare India a data secure country so that sophisticated outsourcing business from the EU flows to India.

EU’s bargain

The EU is keen to have more access to the automobile, alcohol, dairy and insurance segments, the release said.

Although India has not yet been able to increase the FDI limit in insurance from 26 per cent to 49 per cent, the EU is looking for an assurance that it would be incorporated in the trade pact once Parliament gives its nod.

For automobiles, India had agreed to cut down duties to 10 per cent on a quota of 2,50,000 cars from Europe over a period of five years despite huge opposition from the domestic industry last year. But the EU is pushing for more.

India’s dairy industry, including its largest cooperative Amul, is against liberalisation of the sector as it fears that the market would be flooded with cheap European products.

amiti.sen@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on April 16, 2013)
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