Economic Times | 8 Oct, 2010
Govt says may still escalate EU drugs case
NEW DELHI/GENEVA: Indian officials reserved their right on Thursday to escalate a trade dispute with the European Union over seizures of generic drugs after Indian media reported the row had been solved.
Officials in both New Delhi and Geneva expressed surprise at the report that the dispute, which has clouded free-trade negotiations between India and EU, had been settled.
They could not confirm or deny the report, while EU officials in Brussels and Geneva also had no comment.
"It’s not possible for me to confirm that report," said one Indian official. "That is not my impression. We continue with our consultations and we reserve our rights to ask for a panel."
India sought consultations in May with the EU, the first stage in a trade dispute at the World Trade Organization, and many diplomats expect it to move soon to the next stage and request for a WTO panel to rule on the case.
Indian media quoted Trade Minister Anand Sharma on Thursday as saying New Delhi had resolved the dispute.
"(The) EU has accepted our position and amended their rules. We have got understanding on this issue," the Press Trust of India quoted Sharma as saying.
Asked whether India will withdraw its complaint from the World Trade Organisation, the minister said, "Yes. We do not want to be in conflict," the agency quoted him as saying after a meeting of German and Indian businessmen in Berlin.
The case dates back to the seizure by Dutch customs in December 2008 of a blood pressure drug in transit from India to Brazil . The row pitted the intellectual property rights of drugs companies against access to cheaper medicines.
Aid activists had said the case represented a more aggressive stance by patent rights holders which could undermine the supply of cheap drugs to developing countries.
But EU officials insist they have no policy of targeting legitimate generic drugs, while reserving the right to act against counterfeits that pose a danger to people in developing countries as well as robbing intellectual property owners.