India on Thursday strongly condemned the US criticism of its intellectual property rights (IPR) regime, saying it complied with international laws, and said it would have no part in any unilateral investigation by the US on the issue.
A day after the US Trade Representative released its Special 301 report, which kept India out of the 'priority foreign country' list but continued to keep it on the 'priority watch' list, commerce secretary Rajeev Kher said all issues between the two countries, including those related to IPR, should be discussed at the Trade Policy Forum.
The US-India Trade Policy Forum is the principal platform for dialogue between the countries, with focus groups on agriculture, investment, IPR, services and tariff and non-tariff barriers.
India has been on the USTR's PW list, among countries with an unsatisfactory IPR and trade regime, for a long while, and there had been pressure in the US to put it on the more stringent PFC list, which might have triggered sanctions on Indian companies and trade. Kher said he would meet deputy USTR Wendy Cutler in late June or early July to discuss trade-related issues.
"It appears to be a wise decision on the part of the US to not hasten to get into a decision which would have adversely affected bilateral trade relationship and a larger economic engagement between the two countries particularly at a time when we are in the process of a political transition," Kher said in New Delhi.
"They have deferred the process, but … India has clearly conveyed to the US that the government of India will not subject itself to the investigations," he said.
On the USTR announcement that it will conduct out-of-cycle reviews to promote engagement on IPR challenges with India, Kher said it is a unilateral probe by the US, to which India has not committed itself in the WTO or any other forum. "It is a unilateral process under their law," he said.
The secretary said India has addressed all concerns of US pharmaceutical companies with regard to compulsory licences (CL), ever-greening of patents, data exclusivity and patent linkage.
"India clearly believes that it is compliant with its commitments under Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and India has used the flexibilities which are available to the WTO members and that is entirely within the remit and commitments made by India under WTO agreements," he said.
"As far as CL is concerned, it is entirely within the flexibilities that India exercised that authority. CL is not an anathema," he said.
The Obama administration has been strongly critical of India's investment climate and IPR laws, especially in the pharmaceutical and solar sectors.
Kher said he talked to the deputy USTR on Wednesday evening and told her India is always willing to engage bilaterally at a government-to-government level.
"We both agreed that TPF would meet later some time when the new government will be in place," he said.