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The 2014 Special 301 Report and India

By Ambassador Michael Froman

In our 2014 Special 301 report, published today, USTR listed India on the Priority Watch List, and, in addition, called for renewed and intensive engagement with the Government of India as elections conclude and new counterparts take office.  In light of the election in India currently underway, we have decided to look to an Out-of-Cycle Review (OCR) focused on India this Fall to evaluate our ongoing engagement on issues of concern with respect to India’s environment for intellectual property (IP) protection and enforcement.

During our Special 301 review this year, industry and other stakeholders expressed a heightened level of concern about the deterioration in India’s environment for IP protection and enforcement.  We share many of the same concerns.  In determining how to proceed in this year’s report, we carefully considered the range of stakeholder views and how to most effectively make progress with respect to addressing these concerns.  In announcing this year’s determination with respect to India, we are redoubling our efforts to seek constructive engagement that will both improve IP protection and enforcement in India and support India’s efforts to achieve a “decade of innovation” and advance its legitimate public policy goals, including access to affordable medicines.

Shared values form the bedrock of the U.S.-India relationship.  We also face a number of shared challenges as we each take steps to advance legitimate domestic policy objectives.  For example, our governments are each focused on attracting domestic and foreign investment; strengthening our domestic manufacturing base; improving infrastructure, both physical and digital; providing safe and reliable healthcare to all, including those most vulnerable; increasing the supply of energy and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels; and defending our countries against internal and external threats.  And all of this work is ultimately designed to create jobs and improve the well-being of our populations.

Although at different levels of economic development, the United States and India can cooperate and draw upon the deep reservoirs of knowledge and skills in both countries to reinforce the efforts of both governments to respond to these shared challenges.  That is exactly what we have been doing through the broad range of bilateral cooperation that helps us meet these challenges, including our dialogues on Education, Energy, Health, Science and Technology, and, of course, the Trade Policy Forum.

Today’s Special 301 Report highlights an opportunity for building on our bilateral relationship in the critical area of intellectual property.  We believe that an environment conducive to the protection and enforcement of IP can be part of solving pressing domestic policy challenges.  We consider this to be the case whether we are speaking of attracting investment, promoting manufacturing, promoting green technology, or providing high-quality and affordable healthcare.

The Special 301 Report identifies opportunities for improved engagement on issues related to IP and access to medicines.  The United States recognizes the public health challenges that India faces, and looks forward to working with the Indian government to identify the range of ways in which these challenges can be addressed, including by adopting policies that support the innovation of life-saving medications and address obstacles its population faces in accessing quality health care.

We believe an enhanced discussion of a broad range of trade and innovation policies—as they relate to important domestic policy objectives—would be an ideal area for further bilateral collaboration.

The Special 301 Report also identifies other key opportunities for strengthened bilateral cooperation.  For example, the United States and India are home to some of the world’s most vibrant creative industries—including in film, music and software—industries that face serious piracy challenges at home and abroad.  Our industries have successfully collaborated in this area.  Our governments may also be able to find ways to collaborate productively at the technical and senior official level.  Challenges with respect to IPR enforcement have benefited from ongoing cooperation between IP authorities and judicial officers in both countries.  This cooperation should be significantly enhanced.

The Out-of-Cycle Review echoes India’s emphasis on strong government-to-government and government-to-private sector engagement, as the most effective means for resolving concerns in this area.  Through the Out-of-Cycle Review, we will seek to ensure that both governments achieve the meaningful, sustained, and effective engagement required to strengthen this critical bilateral economic relationship.

The Special 301 Report allowed us to look back at India’s recent policies and highlight areas where more joint work would be in our mutual interest.  Now is the time for us to look forward to making that happen.  The election of a new government in India provides an ideal opportunity to turn areas of contention into areas of collaboration.  The remarkable history of this bilateral relationship in just the last twenty years tells us that this is not only possible, but essential if the world’s two largest democracies are to demonstrate successfully the “defining partnership” that President Obama identified as a key feature of this century.