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EU, India Talks End With Resolution On Drug Seizures, Little Progress On Free Trade Agreement

“The European Union and India resolved a dispute over generic drugs on Friday which should remove obstacles to Indian drugs manufacturers exporting products to the developing world, officials said,” Reuters reports in an article that describes the customs regulations previously in place that led “to numerous seizures of generic drugs shipments in transit from India to countries in South America via Europe.”

According to the news service, “Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma told Reuters the EU’s trade chief, Karel De Gucht, told Indian negotiators during an EU-India summit in Brussels that the issue had been resolved, and De Gucht confirmed the agreement. Reuters quotes De Gucht as saying,”Transports in transit will no longer be checked, except for counterfeiting.”

The article describes the cases India and Brazil brought before the World Trade Organization (WTO) against the EU for “wrongly stopping and inspecting shipments of generic drugs in transit, with some shipments being turned away rather than being allowed to continue to their final destination.” Reuters notes that “[i]t is unclear when WTO legal proceedings will be suspended as Friday’s agreement needs approval from the EU’s parliament.”

Despite agreements reached on the customs regulations, Reuters adds the “EU-India summit that failed to provide major breakthroughs in negotiations over a free trade agreement,” with leaders instead maintaining they would attempt to reach a deal in early 2011.

The article notes the concerns by some that an India-EU trade deal would restrict generic drug production, compromising access to low-cost drugs in developing countries. The article includes comments by U.N. Special Rapporteur Anand Grover, who addresses such concerns (von Reppert-Bismarck, 12/10).

“Millions in the developing world depend on India for generic medicines at affordable costs. Restriction of generic drug production in India will have a devastating public health impact around the world and adversely affect the right to health of millions of patients,” Grover said in a press release, according to U.N. News Centre (12/10).

Business Standard features an opinion authored by Sharma and De Gucht on the benefits of an EU-India trade agreement (12/13).

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