USTR Concludes its First Out-of-Cycle Review: Special 301 Review to follow

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) issued a press release on Sunday stating that the first Out-of-Cycle Review had concluded for Fall 2014. The USTR observed that India had made ‘useful commitments’ recently to “institutionalize high-level engagement on IP issues, to pursue a specific work program and to deepen cooperation and information exchange with the United States on IP-related issues under the U.S.-India Trade Policy Forum.” The press release also states that the USTR will commence its next Special 301 Annual Review in 2015, which will monitor the progress of the promises made by India. You may read the press release here. [This post has been edited to reflect “Special 301 Annual Review”]

The announcement comes right ahead of Obama’s visit to India. Reportedly, US is satisfied with the steps India has taken to alleviate US’ concerns about India’s ‘weak IPR laws’. This is the first time US has expressed satisfaction with the work done on IP by any government (India has been on the offenders list since 1989). This does not bode well, given that all efforts have been to primarily impose TRIPS plus standards onto India’s IPR regime.

More recently, the USTR conducted a public consultation on the ‘robustness’ of India’s IPR regime. In the past we have extensively blogged about the USTR conducting unilateral evaluations such as the Special 301 annual process to deride IPR regimes of other countries. In its 2014 edition of the Special 301 Report India escaped being categorised as a Priority Foreign Country, which could have triggered imposition of unilateral trade sanctions against India. Instead, the USTR put India on ‘Priority Watch List’, a consequence of which the Out-of-Cycle Reviews were initiated.

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