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Modi Declares India ‘Open for Business,’ But US Remains Concerned About IP

Issued: October 31 2014

US President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India travel by motorcade en-route to the Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial during Modi’s September visit to Washington. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has said that India is “open for business,” but concerns remain, particularly in the US, about whether Modi will fulfil his promises to resolve long-standing intellectual property concerns between the two countries.


Modi, who won India’s general elections in May 2014, met with President Barack Obama for a private dinner during Modi’s late September visit to Washington.


According to a White House statement, the two leaders discussed Modi’s plans to extend basic financial services to all India’s citizens, helping them to more fully participate in India’s growing economy. Obama and Modi reportedly committed to work through the Trade Policy Forum to promote a business environment attractive for companies to invest and manufacture in India and in the United States, and to establish an annual high-level intellectual property working group with appropriate decision-making and technical-level meetings as part of the Trade Policy Forum.


“There are no reports detailing the content of discussions on intellectual property between Prime Minister Modi and President Obama,” says Ashwin Julka, managing partner at Remfry & Sagar in Gurgaon. “However, the primary concerns of the US and other Western countries are well-known. Mr. Modi has expressed a strong commitment to improving the business environment and has made known that the government will come out with a comprehensive IP policy in the next few months. Whether this policy will fully address issues raised by Western nations is debatable, for Mr Modi is unlikely to be in a position to ignore domestic compulsions. Let us wait and watch.”


Raja Selvam, managing attorney at Selvam & Selvam in Chennai, tells Asia IP that Modi’s government is ready to cooperate with the Indo-US bilateral dialogue mechanisms under the US-India IP working group. “It is my opinion that India need not or will not do anything just to satisfy US or the Western countries, but [instead will act] for the benefit of businesses in India and across the globe. India will be also be coming out with a comprehensive IPR policy very soon as part of its Make in India policy,” Selvam says.


In the US, National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) Vice President of International Economic Affairs Linda Dempsey issued the following statement assessing Modi’s first 100 days in office:


“Manufacturers welcomed Modi’s election victory as a critical chance to reboot a stalled but promising commercial relationship,” said Linda Dempsey, the National Association of Manufacturers’ (NAM) vice president of international economic affairs, prior to Modi’s visit to the US. “By breaking down trade and investment barriers and strengthening intellectual property protections, manufacturers saw the potential to drive economic growth and prosperity in both countries and revitalize a trade relationship that has been increasingly out of balance.”


Dempsey noted that Modi quickly declared India “open for business” and promised to “give the world a favourable opportunity” to manufacture in India, but she remains sceptical that Modi will follow through with his promises. “Actions speak louder than words, and, so far, India is pursuing business as usual,” Dempsey said. “Since May, it has blocked implementation of a global trade facilitation deal that would have contributed US$1 trillion to the world economy by cutting unnecessary red tape at the border. It has raised tariffs and imposed burdensome new testing requirements for imports. It has taken no action to strengthen weak intellectual property protections or eliminate barriers to US exports.” 


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