Swiss-Indian move to combat counterfeiting

Leuthard (left) and Nath are all smiles after signing the agreement in New Delhi Keystone

Economics Minister Doris Leuthard has approved a plan with India's commerce and industry minister, Kamal Nath, aimed at protecting intellectual property rights.

This content was published on August 7, 2007 - 21:51

The deal came during a visit to India by Leuthard who is looking to improve conditions for Swiss companies in the country.

The memorandum of understanding, which was signed in New Delhi on Tuesday, establishes a working group to prevent the production, distribution and sale of counterfeit products, according to an economics ministry statement.

"It envisages an exchange of information and experiences between delegations as well as the possibility of involving representatives from trade and industry on a case-by-case basis," it added.

India is frequently criticised because of what Western countries consider weak protection of property rights.

Counterfeits are reckoned to cost the Swiss economy around SFr2 billion ($1.67 billion) per year.

The talks came a day after a court in India rejected a case by the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis over Indian patent laws.

They deny protection to drugs patented before 1995, modifications or new forms of old medicines.

However, the case over the blockbuster anti-leukaemia drug, Gleevec, is still pending.

Liberalising trade

During the meeting with Nath and Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, Leuthard also discussed ways of improving general conditions for Swiss businesses in India, the economics ministry said.

Talks also focused on future prospects for international negotiations on liberalising trade as well as the moves for a possible trade and investment agreement between India and the European Free Trade Association (Efta), which includes Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland.

Leuthard and Nath had already met in in March for preliminary talks in Zurich.

The Swiss economics minister visited China in July and Brazil, another emerging economy, earlier this year.

Flood aid

In a separate development, Swiss charities, including the Swiss Red Cross, have pledged emergency aid worth SFr1 million ($800,000) for the victims of the floods in southeast Asia.

Several aid groups are assessing the needs, according to a statement by the Swiss Solidarity foundation, which is collecting aditional funds.

The organisation said drinking water, decontamination tablets, food, clothes, shelters and medication were a priority in a first phase.

For its part the foreign ministry said on Tuesday that it was in contact with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation's offices in New Delhi and Dakha to respond to emergencies.

But the ministry said neither India nor Bangladesh had made an international appeal for aid.

"The SDC intervenes only when responding to the green light of the concerned government," an SDC spokesman told swissinfo.

Several hundred people have died and an estimated 20 million others have been forced to leave their homes as a result of the monsoon floods in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Myanmar over the past weeks.

Millions of people could fall ill with malaria, dengue fever and other diseases if emergency aid does not reach those stranded by floodwaters within days, the United Nations warned.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The volume of trade between Switzerland and India last year, according to provisional figures, topped SFr2.6 billion ($2.2 billion).
Swiss exports to India totalled SFr1.9 billion (a rise of 36% compared with the previous year).
Imports from India were valued at SFr736 million (+11%).
Swiss exports to India had multiplied by more than four since 1990.

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In brief

Switzerland has a long-standing relationship with India. Next year will mark the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Friendship and Establishment of Diplomatic Relations, which was concluded on August 14, 1948.

It is significant because it was the first such treaty signed by independent India with another country.

In recent years there has been a number of high-level visits between the two countries.

In 2006, the then Swiss economics minister, Joseph Deiss, led a business delegation to India, while the Indian industry minister, Kamal Nath, paid a visit to Zurich last March.

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