India is looking at greater market access for its pharmaceutical products in the UK as part of the proposed free trade agreement with Britain, an official said on Friday.
The official also said that a leaked chapter of the agreement, which is floated on some portals, on intellectual property (IP) is edited, distorted, and is a manipulated version of an initial document of the UK.
“The best part in the proposed agreement is that both sides have highlighted their red lines and sensitivities. Ever-greening and touching manufacturing of generic medicines is completely non-negotiable,” the official added.
India has already secured greater market access for the domestic pharma industry in a trade pact with the UAE. Under the pact, Indian pharmaceutical products and medical goods will get regulatory approval within 90 days that have been approved in developed jurisdictions such as the US, the UK, the EU, Canada, and Australia.
Similarly, the India-Australia trade deal would provide fast-track approvals and quality assessment/inspections of manufacturing facilities.
“In pharma, we are looking at a positive outcome from the India-UK deal. Regulatory cooperation with UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency is on the cards,” the official said.
India and Britain launched negotiations for the free-trade agreement (FTA) in January with an aim to conclude talks by Diwali (October 24), but the deadline was missed due to political developments in the UK. There are 26 chapters in the agreement, which include goods, services, investments and intellectual property rights.
New Delhi is also looking for easy business and temporary visa norms for skilled professionals.
Reduction or elimination of customs duty under the pact would help Indian labour intensive sectors like textiles, leather, and gems and jewellery to boost exports in the UK market. The UK is seeking duty concessions in areas like Scotch whiskey and automobiles.
Further, the official said that both the countries are trying to secure a deal which is in their national interest.
According to experts, missing the Diwali deadline does not mean that the agreement is derailed and it looks like that these are attempts of some people who have negative intent for the pact.
“Talks are on, its on track. It has to be win-win for both. It has to be on the principle of reciprocity, and it has to be mutually beneficial,” the official added.
According to the leaked document, the UK is allegedly seeking ever-greening of patents, which means that a company can continue to enjoy patent rights in perpetuity after making cosmetic changes.
The official said that no credit should be given to this document and both the sides can deny its veracity.
“In any trade deal, two countries come up with their ambitions but also there is a very strong message which is shared about each other’s sensitivities and red lines and the framework of the negotiations is based on that. Red lines and sensitivities are always highlighted,” the official added.
The bilateral trade between the two countries increased to USD 17.5 billion in 2021-22 compared to USD 13.2 billion in 2020-21. India’s exports stood at USD 10.5 billion in 2021-22, while imports were USD 7 billion.
India’s main exports to the UK include ready-made garments and textiles, gems and jewellery, engineering goods, petroleum and petrochemical products, transport equipment and parts, spices, metal products, machinery and instruments, pharma and marine items.
Major imports include precious and semi-precious stones, ores and metal scraps, engineering goods, professional instruments, non-ferrous metals, chemicals and machinery.
The UK is also a key investor in India. New Delhi attracted foreign direct investment of USD 1.64 billion in 2021-22. The figure was about USD 32 billion between April 2000 and March 2022.
In the services sector, the UK is one of the largest markets in Europe for Indian IT services.
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