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Govt will protect interests of drug industry: Scindia

Economic Times, India

Govt will protect interests of drug industry: Scindia


14 March 2011

NEW DELHI: Amid concerns expressed by the Indian industry, the government today said in Parliament that it will protect the interest of the domestic drug industry while finalising the free trade pact with European Union.

"Public health concerns and interests of domestic drug industry will guide our negotiating position," Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Jyotiraditya Scindia said in a written reply to Lok Sabha.

The two sides have already completed 12 round of talks since June 2007 for the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) for opening up commerce in goods, services and investment, he said.

The talks had hit roadblocks as there was pressure from EU members that social issues like environment, labour standards and TRIPS plus should be covered in the agreement. However, India has been resisting these efforts.

"India has clarified to the EU that it cannot accept provisions in the agreement, which are beyond TRIPS (Trade Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) and domestic law," he said.

The TRIPS agreement was signed as part of the multilateral trade pact of the WTO during the Uruguay Round in 1994. Under this, developing countries including India made several important changes in their domestic IPR regime to make it more stringent.

However, India is strongly opposing going beyond TRIPS in any bilateral free-trade pact, as the move could render a lot of genuine products like generic medicines and software illegal. It can restrict the ability of Indian pharmaceutical firms to produce and export generic or off-patent drugs.

Indian pharma industry and several NGOs have been strongly opposing the proposed bilateral pact on the grounds that it will require India to make TRIPS-plus commitment.

The EU and other developed countries believe a TRIPS-plus pact is a must for tackling the problem of counterfeit drugs.

The EU is India’s largest trading partner. The bilateral trade in 2009-10 aggregated to USD 75 billion. Both the sides are expected to conclude the negotiations by the end of this year.