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India seeks ‘consultations’ with Argentina over drug imports

by Chakravarthi Raghavan

Geneva, 30 May 2001 - India has sought consultations with Argentina at the World Trade Organization over an Argentinian law and decree that discriminates against India and prevents Indian medicines, drugs and other pharmaceuticals from entering the Argentine market.

The consultations under the WTO Dispute Settlement System is the first essential step in the complaint process, before bringing up a complaint at the Dispute Settlement Body and seeking the establishment of a panel to go into the dispute.

The Indian request for consultations was sent in on 25 May. Previous direct requests to Buenos Aires by New Delhi apparently got no response.

The Indian complaint is that the Argentinean law and decrees regulating import of drugs, discriminate against Indian products, and violates the WTO’s Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade and the GATT 1994, and that Argentina has failed to bring its 1992-1993 laws and decrees in line with its obligations under WTO.

The Argentine law (Act No 24.766) and the decree (no. 150/92) relating to export and imports of medicines, require that before entering the Argentinean market, all drugs and other pharmaceuticals must be registered with the National Administration of drugs, Foodstuffs and Medical Technology under the Ministry/Department of Health of Argentina. The decree (and the text under it, No. 177/93) contains two annexes listing countries. In respect of countries in Annex I, pharmaceutical products are required to be manufactured in facilities approved by the relevant government bodies of these countries or the Argentinean Ministry/Department of Health and meet National Health Authority’s manufacturing and quality control requirements. In respect of Annex-II countries, manufacturing facilities for such countries are required to be inspected and approved by the Ministry/Department of Health of Argentina before export of these pharmaceutical products into Argentina.

India figures in neither of the two annexes.

The Indian complaint and request for consultation says that this discrimination has led to a total lack of market access for Indian drugs and pharmaceutical products in Argentina, and that this is a violation of Art. 5.1.1 of the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, and violates the fundamental MFN (most-favoured-nation) provisions of Articles I and III of GATT 1994.

The Argentine law and decree, in the Indian view also violates Art. 5.2 of the TBT agreement and thus constitutes unnecessary obstacles to international trade.

Under Art XVI:4 of the WTO agreement, Argentina is obliged to bring its pre-existing laws into conformity with its WTO obligations, and the maintenance of this law thus violates the WTO agreement. Also, contends India, in implementing these laws or decrees, Argentina has not taken into consideration India’s status as a developing country, and has provided special and differential treatment required under Article 12 of the TBT Agreement. – SUNS4906

The above article first appeared in the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS) of which Chakravarthi Raghavan is the Chief Editor.

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