Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma on Tuesday accused the United States of trade protectionism and of obstructing temporary work visas for skilled Indian professionals.

Addressing a press conference, Mr. Sharma said India's patent law was fully compliant in “letter and spirit” with World Trade Organisation's The Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). “India has never deviated, never diluted (its law),” Mr. Sharma said. He said that driven by lobbyists, the United States is seeking of India “TRIPS-plus” but this is unacceptable.

He was replying to a question on USTR's allegtions that India's IPR norms discriminates American companies, especially in the pharmaceutical sector. The US has raised concerns over issuance of a compulsory license (CL) by India to Hyderabad-based Natco Pharma to manufacture and sell cancer-treatment drug Nexavar at a price over 30 times lower than charged by patent-holder Bayer Corporation.

The USTR has received demands for putting India under 'Priority Foreign Country' list for intellectual property rights--the worst classification in that country that can lead to trade sanctions.The visiting US Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Biswal could meet Indian trade officials on the issue, the Minister said.

The said CL, said Mr. Sharma, was issued under a flexibility available under the WTO rules and that too not “through an executive order” but rather following the "due process". Mr. Sharma pointed out that the US has itself issued CLs through executive authorities and that there are over 80 such executive issuances worldwide but India has adopted this route so far.

Under the Indian Patents Act, a CL can be issued for a drug if the medicine is deemed unaffordable by the government and grants permission to qualified generic drug makers to manufacture it. As per the WTO norms, a CL can be invoked by a government allowing a company to produce a patented product without the consent of the patent owner in public interest.

When asked whether the Ministry has received any proposal from the Health Ministry to issue a CL for anti-cancer drug 'dasatinib', he said: "So far, not".

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