US set for trade enforcement action linked to India

The US trade representative on Monday will announce a trade enforcement action tied to India, his office said, a move that could further rile relations after an incident last year involving the arrest and strip-search of an Indian consul.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman will discuss the action at a news conference at 2 p.m. (1900 GMT), his office said on Sunday night. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said it could offer no additional details.

On Friday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce called on Washington to ratchet up pressure on India over intellectual property rights, a move that could help prevent Indian companies from producing cheap generic versions of medicines still under patent protection.

Also this week, the U.S. International Trade Commission has a hearing scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday to look into Indian trade and investment practices.

In a submission to the USTR, the Chamber of Commerce asked that India be classified as a Priority Foreign Country, a tag given to the worst offenders when it comes to protecting intellectual property and one that could trigger trade sanctions.

Other trade groups, including those representing the pharmaceutical and manufacturing industries, echoed the call for a tougher stance on India.

India is on the U.S. government's Priority Watch List for countries whose practices on protecting intellectual property Washington believes should be monitored closely.

The United States and India have been trying to get their relations back on track after New Delhi blamed Washington for a "mini crisis" over the treatment of its deputy consul general in New York in December.

The diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, was arrested and strip-searched after she was accused of visa fraud and underpaying her maid.

Her treatment provoked protests in India, which curbed privileges offered to U.S. diplomats in retaliation and asked Washington to withdraw a diplomat from New Delhi.

Khobragade left the United States in January after a complex deal in which her diplomatic status was switched to the United Nations, affording her a greater degree of immunity from prosecution. But U.S. authorities have so far refused to drop the charges against her.

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