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Still, a demand by free market advocates for India to end alleged protectionist policies is no simple ultimatum. It is tied not only to the Asian nation’s self-determination, but also to its public health and economic development.
The medical group Doctors Without Borders backs India’s policies, believing they amount to lifesaving measures for millions who might otherwise be priced out of critical care.
At the same time, India owes a significant part of its recent economic growth to flourishing international generic drug sales. The Indian government just announced plans to review some of its trade practices, but in his meeting with Paulsen and others, Indian Finance Minister Shri P. Chidambaram reiterated that compulsory licenses and other patent and domestic production restrictions comply with India’s international trade agreements.
Drug companies say they sometimes offer to donate drugs to the poor. They may also choose to sell them at a discount. Indian officials have chosen not to depend on voluntary corporate philanthropy for critical health treatments.
Roy Waldron, Pfizer’s chief intellectual property counsel, charged that “since early 2012, India’s policies and actions have undermined patent rights for at least nine innovative medicines.”
Waldron’s accusation came at a June congressional hearing titled “How India’s Industrial Policy Is Hurting U.S. Companies.” Waldron’s allegation was among a number of intellectual property complaints lodged by the Information Technology Industry Council, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.
Paulsen says these complaints show that India is “promoting discriminatory trade practices” that must change “to secure and insure” American investments that India requires to continue to develop.
Mujumdar, the Indian patent lawyer, countered that his country’s trade rules are not designed to hurt other countries. They are intended to save lives and create jobs.
“India has to have policies that allow it to do business with other countries,” he noted. “But it also has to look out for its people.”
Jim Spencer • 202-383-6123