U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman has announced that the United States has requested dispute settlement consultations with India before the World Trade Organization (WTO), claiming that the domestic content requirements of India’s clean energy program “discriminate against U.S. solar cells and modules.”The dispute occurs in the context of ongoing trade issues between the two countries, including perceived Indian protectionist measures and purported intellectual property rights abuses by the country’s drug companies. India has complained to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, currently in Delhi, about actions taken against drug maker Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. Additional details about the most recent action involving a Ranbaxy facility appear in Issue 71 of this Bulletin.
In this regard, the Indian health ministry has reportedly signed an agree- ment with FDA to cooperate on the inspection of drug facilities for good manufacturing practices compliance and share regulatory information. Regulators hope that the collaboration will help ease tensions among Indian drug companies and U.S. regulators. Signed by Hamburg and Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on February 11, 2014, the agree- ment requires each country to exchange “information relevant to lack of compliance with accepted good manufacturing practices, as appropriate, by manufacturers and sponsors of medical products.” Regulators from both countries will also reportedly “inform the respective regulatory authorities before undertaking inspections, so that host-country inspec- tors may join inspections as observers.” According to a news source, bilateral trade between the two countries is about $63.7 billion annually, but lawmakers and business groups view India as a serial trade offender whose exports allegedly threaten U.S. jobs; there are apparently 14 past or current WTO cases involving India and the United States. India is said to be the largest overseas source of medicines in the United States, and imports of Indian pharmaceuticals rose in 2013 nearly 32 percent to $4.23 billion. See Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Press Release and Reuters, February 10, 2014; Indian Express, February 11, 2014.