To defer the special review process till the fall

India, on Thursday, said the Obama administration’s decision to resist US drug and pharma lobby pressures for sterner trade action and instead retain India on its “Priority Watch List in the Special 301 Report” till the fall was “wise”.

In a significant thawing of bilateral relations, India and the U.S. have agreed to hold Commerce Secretary-Deputy United States Trade Representative (USTR) level talks next month. The two sides have also decided to follow up this dialogue with a Trade Policy Forum (TPF) meeting at the level of the USTR and Union Commerce Minister of India. The TPF has not met since 2010.

Commerce Secretary Rajeev Kher told reporters here on Thursday that he and Deputy USTR Wendy Cutler had agreed to hold talks the previous evening. He said that Ms. Cutler had called him to share that the Obama administration intended to announce retaining India on the “Priority Watch List”.

He also said that the USTR decision to “defer the special review process till the fall” appeared to be “wise”.

The Special 301 report is an official assessment of the global state of IPR protection and enforcement in the U.S.’ trade partners.

Calling for “renewed and intensive engagement with the Government of India as elections conclude and new counterparts take office”, USTR Michael Froman had said in Washington on Wednesday: “In light of the election in India currently underway, we have decided to look to an Out-of-Cycle Review focused on India this fall to evaluate our ongoing engagement on issues of concern with respect to India’s environment for intellectual property protection and enforcement”.

The out-of-cycle review echoes India’s emphasis on strong government-to-government and government-to-private sector engagement, as the most effective means for resolving concerns in this area.

Mr. Froman had also said that the election of a new government in India provides an ideal opportunity to turn areas of contention into areas of collaboration: “The Special 301 Report allowed us to look back at India’s recent policies and highlight areas where more joint work would be in our mutual interest. Now is the time for us to look forward to making that happen.

Mr. Kher, however, said that given the said “Special 301” process was started by the US Government unilaterally, India maintains its stand of staying out of the investigations. “Indian entities could, however, participate to give evidence,” the Commerce Secretary added.

“It is the US that has decided to carry out such an investigation. We are not bound by our WTO commitments or bilateral commitments to subject ourselves to such an investigation,” he said.

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