Friday, Sep 12, 2003
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The Confederation of Indian Industry found itself in the middle of a controversy at Cancun when the European Union claimed that the organisation wanted the WTO to negotiate a global treaty on the rules for foreign investors. This would be contrary to the Government policy which is strongly opposed to such a decision.
On September 9, Pascal Lamy, the European Trade Commissioner, said at a press conference that a number of business associations in the developing countries, including in India, had asked for the Cancun conference to take a decision in favour of investment rules. The implication was that the stand of governments was not consistent with what domestic business wanted.
The CII was compelled on September 10 to issue a press release denying that it had endorsed the EU stand. The CII said it had not agreed to sign a joint business charter with UNICE, the employers' organisation in the EU, so there was no question of going along with the EU on investment. The EU had apparently exerted considerable pressure on the CII to endorse its proposal. It failed, but Mr. Lamy yet decided to publicly state that Indian business associations has a different perspective from the Government of India.
TRIPS debate continues
The WTO may have finalised an agreement on August 30 to operationalise the 2001 declaration facilitating access in developing countries to patented medicines at low prices, but as far as the NGOs are concerned, that is not the end of the matter. A dozen groups, including Medecins Sans Frontiers, OXFAM and Third World Network, have warned at Cancun that the WTO deal is `a gift' for the poor that is `bound in red tape'. Their argument is that while the deal did have a positive feature in that it did not allow the U.S. to limit the agreement to drugs meant to treat only a few diseases, it came with far too many conditions to be of much use.
The main problems are: (i) the requirement to issue two compulsory licences in the exporting and importing country, (ii) constraints on business practices of the generic drug companies and (iii) it gives the WTO new authority to `second guess' and interfere in the grant of compulsory licences.
The NGOs also point out that what has been agreed to is a temporary waiver and a permanent amendment to the TRIPS agreement has to be negotiated by 2004.
C. Rammanohar Reddy
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