Conveying his concerns about the European Union’s ban on 700 Indian generic medicines, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday asked visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel to use her influence to remove impediments in the path of resumption of talks on the free trade agreement with the 28-member bloc.
NEW DELHI: Conveying his concerns about the European Union’s ban on 700 Indian generic medicines, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday asked visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel to use her influence to remove impediments in the path of resumption of talks on the free trade agreement with the 28-member bloc.
“It’s our hope that this matter would be looked at fairly and sensibly and would hopefully not be an impediment to the free trade deal,” foreign secretary S Jaishankar said after Merkel’s meeting with Modi.
India had called off a scheduled meeting of chief negotiators of the two sides on the proposed free trade agreement following EU imposing a ban in August on 700 generic medicines. Clinically tested by Hyderabad’s GVK Biosciences, the ban ordered by the European Commission, was based on recommendations from their drug regulator European Medicines Agency alleging “systematic manipulations of clinical trial data”.
This was the largest EU-wide suspension of sales and distribution of generic drugs and is applicable to all 28 member nations.
Jaishankar said there was an understanding that “we would go forward with negotiations” though there was an issue of India’s pharmaceutical exports getting affected.
“The Prime Minister urged the Chancellor to use her influence to ensure that the right decision was made by the regulators in this regard,” he said.
The foreign secretary said there were a number of sticky issues in negotiations for FTA talks which include data security.
“We are also aware that the restrictions which have been placed on the sale of about 700 odd drugs from India which in our views was unwarranted. It was an obstacle to the negotiations moving forward. It was a subject of discussion today,” said Jaishankar.
Jaishankar said the issue was raised by Modi when he met leaders of European nations in New York last week.
Intellectual property rights – primarily related to pharmaceuticals and information technology services along with data security are some of the key issues creating hurdles for the proposed agreement between India and EU.
Public health groups and Indian pharmaceutical companies are concerned that the European Commission may push for stringent patent regime, including patent norms in transit, creating barriers for low priced medicines manufactured in India.
Though the FTA also contains provisions that can be significant for India, increased levels of IP protections pose a severe threat to the country’s public health as well as the drug manufacturing industry, which is a major export revenue churner.
The proposed FTA seeks to slash tariffs by 90% over 10 years from the time of implementation of the pact. The EU accounts for almost 17% of India’s total exports. The region is currently India’s largest trading partner with bilateral trade worth $130 billion in 2013-2014.
So far, there have been 13 rounds of negotiations over the FTA or Broad-Based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) with the last one in May, 2013.