New Delhi: Assuring the $22 billion generic pharmaceutical industry, the government on Wednesday said India will not compromise its interest while negotiating the free trade and investment agreement with the European Union (EU).
“I can give you assurance that I will not enter into any bargain...which binds me to a commitment that in anyway compromises my domestic policy,” commerce secretary Rahul Khullar told reporters.
He said the understanding to this effect was reached between commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma and EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht in Brussels on 29 November.
“It was agreed that all this business of generic (drugs) was off the table,” he said.
Indian pharma industry, which exports $10 billion worth of affordable medicines around the world, follows the multilateral WTO rules on patents (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights).
Under TRIPS, the off-patent generic medicines can be manufactured and exported anywhere in the world. However, the EU regulations insists on extra binding regime.
European negotiators, in the ongoing Bilateral Investment and Trade Agreement (BITA) talks have insisted that India should follow TRIPS plus regime to enable the opening of the trade through the bilateral pact, which will reduce duties.
As the two sides are nearing the completion of BITA talks, several non-government organizations in India and even in Europe have raised concerns about impact on affordable medicines, in case India were to fall in line with the EU regulations.
Khullar said that while he would not like to disclose his negotiating strategy, “you must not judge me by what is being negotiated but (by) what the outcome is.”
He is leaving for Brussels on Wednesday night to join Sharma, who will be present for the India-EU Summit that will be attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday.
Khullar said the communique issued after the summit would give a clear timeline for the signing of the trade opening agreement. He added that it is likely to be concluded in March next year.
EU is India’s largest trading partner with the two-way commerce of about $75 billion in 2009-10.