India to block US trade probes; Ready for fight at WTO

In continuation to my previous blog entry, this blog is about an article published by the Times of India according to which, this time India has taken a step forward and has decided to block investigations by the US into its trade policies and patent laws and prepare for a battle at the World Trade Organization (WTO), which could be considered a move that could escalate already overwrought tension between the two countries.

New Delhi is furious about a threat of trade sanctions made by the US Trade Representative’s (USTR) office over its protection of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).

On Wednesday, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) which represents about 50 US business groups asked the USTR to designate India a “priority foreign country” in its 2014 report. “This designation appropriately would rank India among the very worst violators of Intellectual Property Rights and establish a process leading to concrete solutions,” NAM said in a letter to US Trade Representative, Michael Froman.

The USTR is holding public hearings for its annual report due in April. The report will provide details on nations denying protection of IP rights or fair market access to US firms. India is widely perceived in Washington as a serial trade offender, with US firms unhappy about imports of everything from shrimp to steel pipes. This practice, they say, threaten jobs as well as extend a lack of fair access to the Indian market for its goods.

WTO cases:

This month, Washington said it was filing its second case at the WTO over domestic content requirements in India’s solar programme, which aims to ease energy shortages in Asia’s third-largest economy. There are 14 past or current WTO cases between India and the US, whose bilateral trade in goods measured US$ 63.7 billion last year, not including the latest case.

India has since hardened its stance, instructing officials not to entertain any request from the US International Trade Commission (USITC) — a quasi-judicial federal agency — to examine its trade practices. India’s trade ministry has also “advised” US deputy Trade Representative, Wendy Cutler to put off a visit to India that had been scheduled for late March, due to the parliamentary election due in April or May, a senior official told Reuters. The official said India had asked for alternative dates for the visit, possibly after the elections, adding that the decision was not linked with the trade tension.

Worst offenders:

The USTR listed in a February ’12 report, markets in Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad as being among the worst offenders globally for the sale of pirated software and counterfeit goods. A visit by the USITC delegation to meet officials from the Indian commerce, industry, health, telecom and finance ministries has also been put on hold. A USITC spokeswoman confirmed the delay, saying that they were looking for “other windows” for a visit, but declined to comment on the reasons for the delay.

Newly appointed trade secretary Rajeev Kher, who pushed India’s stand on food security issues at a WTO meeting in Bali, as chief WTO negotiator, has told his officials to tackle bilateral trade disputes preferably through multi-lateral forums. India has also urged President Barack Obama’s administration not to fall prey to special interest groups and consider trade issues in the context of the wider economic and strategic relationship between the two countries.

Officials say any move towards putting India on a priority foreign countries list would hurt bilateral relations. “There are clear stresses in the India-US trade, economic relations,” said another government official who, like others who spoke to Reuters, declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter. “If it is a strategic relationship, they should be looking at the larger picture.”

Source: here

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