Out of Cycle, Out of Touch

By December 16, 2014Trade

USTR Gives India’s Weak IP Policies a Pass

India got a pass when the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) dropped its out-of-cycle review of that country’s abysmal IP regime, which consistently ranks as one of the very worst in the world.

The NAM and its partners in the Alliance for Fair Trade with India have long called for concrete action to address the threat of India’s deteriorating intellectual property environment and other discriminatory policies to manufacturing and jobs in the United States.

In its Special 301 Report released earlier this year, USTR appeared to agree, citing “growing” IP protection and enforcement challenges that raise “serious questions regarding the future of the innovation climate in India and across multiple sectors and disciplines.”

But rather than give the matter the attention it deserves by making India a Priority Foreign Country and kicking off a formal process to address longstanding challenges, USTR put India in the lower Priority Watch List category for the 26th straight year and announced the out of cycle review.

That review could have been a chance to look hard at the “growing” challenges highlighted in the Special 301 Report and to build leverage for change. Instead, USTR merely requested comments on the “quality of engagement” on those challenges.

In its Friday (December 12) statement announcing the end of the review, USTR noted India’s “useful commitments,” including to “engagement” on IP issues, “information exchange” and “a specific work program” under the U.S.-India Trade Policy Forum that met just before Thanksgiving for the first time in four years. It cited no change in Indian policy and no improvement in IP protection and enforcement in India when it concluded this review.

The “specific work program” USTR mentions doesn’t appear to be publicly available. Whatever it is, we hope it results in concrete progress and real results. But so far, India appears to have done precious little, if anything, to warrant USTR’s soft on crime approach.

In a separate release last week, incoming Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) put it bluntly: “to successfully address India’s on-going disregard for the protection of U.S. intellectual property rights, it’s vital the Government of India and the Obama Administration act to develop a strong and meaningful action plan with concrete timetables for implementation.”

We couldn’t agree more.

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