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USTR starts new GSP eligibility review of India citing petitions by US medical device firms
Arun Sreenivasan, New Delhi | Saturday, April 14, 2018, 08:10 Hrs  [IST]

The Office of the United States Trade Representative(USTR) on April 13 announced that it was reviewing the eligibility of India in the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) based on concerns about the countries’ compliance with the programme.

According to USTR, the self-initiated eligibility review of India is launched over concerns related to its compliance with the GSP market access criterion. “The petitions filed by the US dairy industry and the US medical device industry requested a review of India’s GSP benefits, given Indian trade barriers affecting US exports in those sectors. India has implemented a wide array of trade barriers that create serious negative effects on US commerce. The acceptance of these petitions and the GSP self-initiated review will result in one overall review of India’s compliance with the GSP market access criterion,” the USTR said in a statement.

Multi-national medical device manufacturers have been working overtime to water down the country’s drug pricing regulations by calling on Washington to use GSP as a bargaining chip. Last week, Assistant US Trade Representative Mark Linscott visited New Delhi and held talks with Indian commerce ministry officials.

The latest review is based on the Trump administration’s new GSP country eligibility assessment process as well as GSP country eligibility petitions. “GSP provides an important tool to help enforce the Trump administration’s key principles of free and fair trade across the globe. The president is committed to ensuring that those countries who receive GSP benefits uphold their end of the bargain by continuing to meet the eligibility criteria outlined by Congress,” Deputy US Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish said in a statement.

All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN), a network of non-profits in the health sector slammed the US move saying that the actions of Washington and medical device companies are despicable and violative of the right to health.

“The US medical device makers Abbott, Boston Scientific and Medtronic through the industry association AdvaMed petitioned the US government for withdrawing GSP benefits to India. The US government decision, instigated by these companies, follows on the heels of the USTR meeting with Indian officials. It is strategically aimed at maintaining sustained pressure against India’s use of price controls on medical devices to improve affordability for its population,” the group said.

“The price intervention on stents was a measure to rationalise a highly uncompetitive market dominated by the aforementioned companies and to stem rampant corruption. By towing the line of Abbott, Boston Scientific and Medtronic, the US government is ignoring the millions of dollars leeched from Indian patients through exploitative pricing over more than a decade and is complicit in staking the health of millions of people by pressuring the Indian government not to act to expand access to healthcare, it added.

Along with India, the eligibility of Indonesia and Kazakhstan are also under review.

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