‘Targeting India’s IP laws undermines WTO’s legitimacy’

PTI Washington | Updated on March 06, 2014

A Geneva-based inter-governmental organisation of developing countries has slammed America and developed world countries for pressurising India over its IP (intellectual property) laws, which it alleged undermines the legitimacy of WTO.

“The Indian IP laws include balanced provisions to ensure that IP rights do not hinder the ability of the Government to adopt measures for promoting development priorities, particularly in the area of public health,” South Center said in a statement Tuesday vehemently opposing any US move to take any action against India.

“These are fully in line with the TRIPS Agreement and reaffirmed by the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health,” it said.

The statement comes after the US International Trade Commission (USITC), a federal American agency, has initiated a probe against India’s domestic trade and investment policies particularly intellectual property laws.

Several US-based organisations have urged the US Trade Representative (USTR) to include India as a priority foreign country in the Special 301 review for 2014, alleging that India lacks adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights.

“The South Centre views these recent developments as most inappropriate, as it is against the spirit of the landmark Ministerial Declaration on TRIPS Agreement and Public Health,” it said in a statement.

“India and other developing and least developed countries have the right to use the flexibilities in the TRIPS Agreement to the fullest extent for advancing public health needs and other development priorities,” South Centre said.

The legal and regulatory measures that India has used for protecting public health are fully consistent with the WTO TRIPS Agreement.

The continued threat of unilateral trade sanctions by the US to developing countries through USITC investigations and the Special 301 review undermines the legitimacy of the WTO, particularly the TRIPS Agreement and the WTO’s dispute settlement system.

“It is regrettable that India or any other developing countries may be designated as a “priority foreign country” under the “Special 301” provisions of the US Trade Act of 1974,” the South Center said adding that the mere threat of sanctions by placing a country in any specific category in the US watchlist would appear to violate the WTO Dispute Settlement Understanding.

A WTO panel noted, in a dispute brought in 1999 by the EU against Section 301 of the US law, that “the threat alone of conduct prohibited by the WTO would enable the Member concerned to exert undue leverage on other Members.

“It would disrupt the very stability and equilibrium which multilateral dispute resolution was meant to foster and consequently establish, namely equal protection of both large and small, powerful and less powerful Members through the consistent application of a set of rules and procedures,” the statement said.

Published on March 06, 2014

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