Monday, November 29, 1999

India, EU to hold talks on drug dispute next month

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New Delhi, June 17 (PTI) At the instance of the WTO, India and the European Union will try to resolve a dispute, relating to seizure of Indian drugs by some European countries for alleged patent violations, next month. Negotiators from the two sides will meet in July either at Brussels or Geneva, Additional Secretary in the Commerce Ministry D K Mittal told PTI. India had dragged the EU to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), protesting against the seizure of its off-patent drugs by some European countries while they were en route to export destinations in Africa and Latin America. In accordance with a WTO rule, both the parties were asked to engage in formal bilateral consultations as part of a last-ditch effort to resolve the problem. If the issue still remains unresolved, it would be referred to the dispute settlement panel of the WTO. Mittal said that the Indian team of officials, to be led by a Joint Secretary, has done enough spade work for the meeting. "We have prepared 40-50 questions (for EU)," he said, adding that the consultation process may take a month or two. In the last one year, customs authorities of Europe -- especially Netherlands -- seized 19 drug consignments belonging to Indian companies while they were en route to their export destinations. The Dutch authorities had alleged violation of their patent laws, even though the Indian government maintained that they were off-patent drugs. India also received the support of several global non-governmental organisations (NGOs), which claimed that cheaper Indian medicine had improved access to healthcare for the poor in developing countries. Indias USD 20-billion pharmaceutical industry gets 45 per cent of its revenue from the export of generic drugs. PTI RR NKD PC.

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