Ask India to correct trade imbalance, lawmakers tell Obama

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MANMOHANNEW DELHI, July 28;U.S. lawmakers have asked President Barack Obama to tell India that it should consider constructive ways to address the deteriorating trade and investment climate, especially policies pertaining to intellectual property rights violations.

In a June 18 letter, 171 Congressmen asked the President to ensure that these issues were raised at the highest levels of the Indian government and they were a top priority at the coming U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue and other bilateral and multilateral meetings. “India is a highly valued strategic partner, and we support strong, continued growth in the trade and investment relationship. In an effort to continue this positive trajectory, the Indian government should consider constructive ways to address the deteriorating trade and investment climate in India.”

Troubled by the growing trade imbalance, the lawmakers said that in the last year, Indian policymakers and courts had taken a series of actions designed to block imports by forcing local production of a wide range of goods.

In particular, they were worried that the intellectual property (IP) climate had become increasingly challenging. U.S. companies suffered a host of IP issues in information technology, renewable energy and bio-pharmaceuticals. Last year, several bio-pharmaceutical companies had their patents revoked inappropriately or their appeals denied by Indian courts to market a variety of life-saving drugs. Furthermore, the government issued its first compulsory licence (CL) for a stage three liver and kidney cancer drug. “These actions by the Indian government greatly concern us because innovation and the protection of IP are significant driving engines of the U.S. economy,” the letter said.

The lawmakers said nearly 40 million workers, or 30 per cent of the U.S. workforce, were employed directly or indirectly in IP-intensive industries. These industries would dictate U.S. success or failure in the global marketplace, and were increasingly important for the Indian economy, too. “On a bipartisan basis, we understand that the U.S. must demonstrate a strong leadership in protecting IP rights and ensure that our trading partners pursue high standards of IP protection. The chilling effect on global R&D investment, both in the U.S. and India, as a result of India’s IP policies, could have a significant impact on jobs and investment in the U.S.”

Furthermore, the letter said, India was a thought leader among emerging countries, and others had started emulating its IP policies. “The U.S. government must send out a strong signal to the Indian government that these actions are inconsistent with India’s international obligations, set a bad precedent, and undermine the culture of innovation that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself has been promoting.”

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