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BW Businessworld

India’s Indignation

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India has approached the world trade organization (WTO) to settle a dispute with the European Union (EU). In the past year, the EU seized 16 Indian drug consignments in transit to Peru, Brazil, Columbia and Nigeria at Frankfurt and Amsterdam ports. "We are in the process of filing a case with the WTO's dispute settlement body," says D.K. Mittal, additional secretary of commerce. "The seizures are clearly in bad spirit." The seized drugs, from companies such as Cipla, Ind-Swift, Dr. Reddy's Laboratories and Aurobindo Pharma, were held on grounds of drug trafficking and patent infringement.

"We have investigated these claims and found them to be completely baseless," says Rajeev Kher, joint secretary of commerce, who sees in these incidents a concerted effort by Big Pharma to hurt Indian generic drug business and its credibility.

Earlier this year, the commerce ministry and the Indian ambassador to Belgium wrote to David O'Sullivan, EU director general for trade, protesting against the seizures. "We have received a response from Sullivan, who has instructed custom authorities to be more cautious while exercising border measures," says Kher.

However, this may not prove enough to prevent similar incidents in the future. India has sought an amendment to the EU directive No. 1383/2003 of 22 July 2003, which allows action against goods suspected of infringing patents. India argues that this directive is being misused to hurt legitimate generic trade.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 20-07-2009)

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