Wednesday, April 1, 2009

India to sign eco pacts with COMESA, EAC nations

By ASHOK B SHARMA [The Financial Express] - India

India is exploring possibilities of striking comprehensive economic cooperation agreements with the Common Market of Southern Africa (COMESA) and the East African Community (EAC).

India and African nations would work together by adopting a consensual approach and voice the need for striking a balance between public health concerns and protection and enforcement of the intellectual property rights (IPRs) regime at various multi-lateral fora.

The 21st Century is the century of a "resurgent India and a vibrant and self-confident Africa", according to the Indian Minister of State for External Affairs, Anand Sharma who also said that it was time for India and Africa to step up their partnership to a new level, especially in the fields of capacity building and skills development.

Delivering the valedictory address at the 5th CII-Exim Bank Conclave on India Africa Project Partnership on Tuesday, he described the successful launch of the Pan-African e-Network Project in February 2009 as "a pioneering effort in the fields of telemedicine and tele-education that would result in a mutually rewarding partnership."

Sharma said, "In Africa, Indian generics have reduced the cost of AIDS drugs from $15,000 to $200 per patient per year. Today, there are reliable estimates that half of all AIDS patients in the Third World rely on Indian generics. However, multinational companies have been using pressure tactics and working with drug regulatory authorities in developed and developing countries to try to expand the definition of generic drugs beyond the scope of the TRIPS agreement. Such an interpretation of generic drugs would be detrimental to the efforts of developing countries to ensure timely access to essential life-saving and affordable medicines to their citizens. In fact most of the facilities manufacturing these generic drugs which are exported to Africa and other countries conform to the highest quality standards prescribed by the WHO."

He urged that India and African nations should work together by adopting a consensual approach and voice the need for striking a balance between public health concerns and protection and enforcement of the intellectual property rights (IPRs) regime at various multi-lateral fora.

The minister said that it was time for Indian industry to institutionalize its relations with Africa, adding that "new pathways had to be found for sustainable and inclusive growth." In this context, he pointed to the strategies outlined in the Framework Cooperation Agreement that was reached at last year's India-Africa Summit.