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Business News/ Politics / Policy/  US seeks to establish secretary-level group to address IPR concerns
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US seeks to establish secretary-level group to address IPR concerns

Indian and US officials discuss agenda, modalities and dates for Trade Policy Forum meeting

Commerce secretary Rajeev Kher flagged India’s concerns on US Totalization and Social Security Act and highlighted how the policy was discriminatory towards Indian workers in the US. Photo: PIBPremium
Commerce secretary Rajeev Kher flagged India’s concerns on US Totalization and Social Security Act and highlighted how the policy was discriminatory towards Indian workers in the US. Photo: PIB

New Delhi: Indian and US officials on Wednesday discussed the agenda for the upcoming ministerial-level Trade Policy Forum meeting between the two countries scheduled to be held before the end of the year. While India raised the issues of the totalization agreement, high visa costs, the US side sought to establish a working group to address its concerns about India’s intellectual property rights (IPR) laws.

Commerce secretary Rajeev Kher met acting deputy US trade representative Wendy Cutler as part of an inter-ministerial discussion to set the agenda, modalities and dates for the meeting, to be held in New Delhi.

“The Indian side proposed two set of dates for hosting the next meeting of the TPF in India before the end of this year," the commerce ministry said.

Discussions were held on IPR issues and investment in manufacturing. A commerce and industry ministry official said the US side wanted to form a working group at the secretary level to resolve its concerns over IPR issues.

However, the official who requested anonymity said India is reluctant to accept the US proposal as Indian structures are different from US ones. “Because there are eight or nine departments who handle IPR in India. IPR is not only pharma. Copyright is with the human resources department, films, etc. are with information and broadcasting ministry, traditional knowledge is with AYUSH department. You can’t have eight secretaries and one person from the US sitting in a meeting to discuss IPR issues," the official said.

The US wants to make an announcement regarding this during prime minister Narendra Modi’s US visit later this month to pacify its domestic pharma lobby, the official said. “We are proposing meetings at the joint secretary or additional secretary level officers from both sides on specific topics."

Kher flagged India’s concerns on US Totalization and Social Security Act and highlighted how the policy was discriminatory towards Indian workers in the US who ended up losing their social security contributions due to discrepancy in the visa and social security regimes—“also indicating recourse to legal remedies".

“Issues of high visa costs and corresponding higher wage implications and its impact on India’s IT industry and professionals under the US immigration reforms were also mentioned for inclusion in the agenda," the ministry said.

Kher also sought information on re-authorization of the Generalized System of Preference (GSP), which expired in July 2013, and is awaiting Congressional approval. GSP is a preferential tariff system extended by the US to developing countries, involving reduced tariffs or duty-free entry of eligible products exported by beneficiary countries. Mostly Indian textile exports benefit from this provision.

India also raised market access issues of rice, mangoes, pomegranates and table grapes. It raised concerns over US department of labour listing certain textile products alleging the use of child or forced labour. India says this is a non-tariff barrier that impacts its exports of textile products to the US markets.

“On the IPR side, India for the first time showed great interest in raising the issue of market access for pharmacopeia and professionals under India’s traditional system of medicines (AYUSH) and also suggested a bilateral institutionalized mechanism for discussing issues of bio-piracy with the US side," the statement added.

Modi’s visit to the US starting 26 September also came up for discussion as did India’s stand on food security and trade facilitation as part of the Bali Agreement on world trade. “Mr Kher in categorical terms reiterated India’s avowed position on food security and trade facilitation at great length, re-affirming and reassuring India’s commitment to the Bali Agreement, while re-emphasizing a desire for a time bound and permanent solution to the food security issue," the statement said.

The Trade Policy Forum has not met in three years. In 2012, three days before the eighth round of US-India Trade Policy Forum talks were to begin, the meeting was deferred indefinitely by the US, allegedly because it was certain that India was unlikely to yield to its demands.

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Published: 18 Sep 2014, 12:13 AM IST
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