The US asked India on Tuesday to take steps to aid affordable health care by looking beyond intellectual property rights (IPR) and compulsory licensing and addressing other concerns such as rate reduction, distribution of medicines and insurance coverage. The discussion took place under the India-US Trade Policy Forum (TPF), which met here on Tuesday after a gap of more than four years, with both sides seeking to address outstanding issues concerning bilateral trade and investment. The meeting was jointly chaired by Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and US Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman. The TPF, which lasted for about one-and-a-half hours, was also attended by Rajeev Kher, commerce secretary; Amitabh Kant, secretary, Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP); J S Deepak, additional secretary, commerce department; and DIPP joint secretary D V Prasad, among others. “We did discuss IPR in broad terms. On some of the more challenging issues like pharmaceuticals, we need to take a broad-based view of access to affordable health care and promotion of innovation. There is a lot that goes into access to affordable health care beyond intellectual property rights, beyond patents, beyond compulsory licences,” Froman said after the meeting. The TPF was preceded by the first high-level meeting of the working group in IPR on Monday. Froman said access to affordable health care entails a large number of factors from rates, logistics and insurance reforms, on which India needs to concentrate. “Issue of access to affordable medicine is not only IPR… We are committed to promoting innovation and promoting affordable health care. We are focused on generics and maintaining cost efficient ways to access health care. But without innovation, there could be no generics,” the USTR added. Froman said both sides did not discuss the contentious “out-of-cycle reviews”, launched to review India’s IPR laws as part of the USTR’s Special 301 Report. In the report, the US has kept India in the “priority watch list” for having an allegedly weak IPR regime. “It was a very good meeting. They (the US) have understood our position. We will meet more often...
The dialogue will continue. It's not that the dialogue will take place a after four-year gap. It will be more often. We have expressed all concerns and addressed their issues,” said Kher. According to the joint statement, India had raised the issue of expanding the scope of professional visas such as the H1-B and L1 for easier access to US by Indian professionals. India also urged US to expedite the social security Totalisation Agreement for the Indian professionals based out of America.
India also apprised US about the work underway to unveil a 'National IPR Policy.' It also sought greater access of traditional Indian medicine in view of affordable healthcare.
On Monday, Froman met Indian industry chambers CII and FICCI where he highlighted issues relating to IPR protection, local sourcing norms, regulatory challenges and mobility of high skilled labor. He stressed on the high standards for IPR being adopted by the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations and suggested that as an innovative economy, India needs to look at IPR norms more closely.
The US' National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) in a letter to the USTR has urged him to take up "longstanding bilateral trade irritants and new barriers imposed by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi."
On the breakthrough with India over the World Trade Organization?s (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and food stockpiling, Froman said it might go through smoothly during the next meetings of the General Council.
"The agreement is that there will be implementation of the TFA and then when it comes to food security there will be intensified efforts to reach a permanent solution. As per the agreement, the PC will remain in effect unless a PS is found. There are no other changes to the Bali agreement, rest of the package remains the same," he added.
The TPF, which was established in 2005 is the premium forum for bilateral trade and has five main focus groups -agriculture, innovation and creativity, investment, services, tariffs and non-tariff barriers.
Both sides have set a target of achieving $500 billion worth of trade in goods and services from the present $100 billion by laying a roadmap for future.