India May File WTO Complaint Against EU

India is likely to file an official case against the European Union asking the World Trade Organisation to bring EU customs regulations in line with internationally accepted norms as the government takes serious notes of two instances where drugs exported from the country to Nigeria and Brazil where seized in transit by Dutch authorities.

The consignments contained anti-HIV and anti-Malarial drugs that are off-patent in India, and were impounded early this year at Dutch ports after European companies holding patents for them moved the customs authorities alleging they were counterfeit.

"It's illegal as it not only violated the international intellectual property agreement (Trips), but was also against the GATT provisions on transit," a commerce department official told ET requesting anonymity.

The official explained that GATT (now the WTO) had specific rules on goods in transit which ruled out such confiscations. Moreover, the drugs that were being exported were generic or off-patent in India and the country had every right to sell it to another country under the Trips regulations.

"India has decided to ask the WTO to set up a panel for settling this dispute. We want the EU to bring its customs regulations in line with international regulations. The panel is likely to be set up soon," the official said.

EU trade commissioner Catherine Ashton, who was in India last month, had assured commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma that the problem of confiscation would be addressed. However, she was not ready to spell out clearly how she planned to go about it and whether the customs regulations would be changed.

"We cannot work on verbal assurances. When consignments are confiscated, it brings disrepute and also leads to delays and losses. We cannot allow this to continue," the official said.

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