Mending the Fences: India-USA Trade Policy Forum

Mending the Fences: India-USA Trade Policy ForumOn a positive note, this week India and USA have decided to cooperate formutual benefit in the recently concluded Trade Policy Forum (TPF). The Forum, chaired by Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman and U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Michael Froman, is the top bilateral forum for discussion and resolution of trade and investment issues and reportedly IPR issues featured prominently in the discussions.

USA reiterated its demand on data exclusivity in the pharmaceutical sector and urged the Indian Authorities to take steps to avoid unfair commercial use of clinical tests data made available by US Companies to Indian regulators.

It also expressed concerns over India’s high tariffs on import of office patent drugs and sought reduction claiming that lower tariffs on non-patented drugs would go a long way in making the healthcare affordable in India. Both the countries acknowledged the paramount goal of ensuring affordable and quality healthcare to the poorest populations in India and the United States and committed themselves to identify ways in which trade and innovation policies can enhance access to affordable medicines. During the discussion, India highlighted the importance of its vast traditional knowledge in facilitating access to affordable healthcare and both the countries have agreed to encourage further engagement of experts to exploit the full potential of the available knowledge. While USA stressed that for attracting world class investments, India would need a concomitant IPR regime; India maintained that its new IPR policy, soon to be drafted by recently constituted think tank, would stimulate innovation across all sectors.

Among other things, both countries also recognized the importance of adequate protection to trade secrets and agreed to share best legal practices in this area. The TPF is sought to provide impetus to both countries for providing a transparent and predictable policy environment for fostering innovation. In the meanwhile, the high level working group, which both countries had agreed to set up during India’s Prime Minister Visit to USA, to sort out contentious IP issues, has already been constituted as part of TPF and reportedly USA contingent is not very pleased with the profile of Indian representatives in the group.