A practicing medical doctor and Parliamentarian Dr Dharam Vira Gandhi has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to impose price control on all medical devices as a response to the United States Trade Representative's (USTR) recent decision to withdraw the preferential tariffs India enjoyed on export of several products to the US.
Gandhi, who represents Patiala constituency in Punjab, was miffed with the April 12 announcement of USTR on the launch of a self initiated General System of Preference (GSP) eligibility review of India on the basis of petitions it received from the US dairy and medical device industry. These two sectors wanted USTR to review India's GSP eligibility as they complained that India was imposing trade barriers making it difficult for them to do business in the country.
In addition to price control on medical devices, Gandhi also wanted the government to move the Competition Commission of India for an investigation into the alleged anti-competitive practices of medical device industry in India.
"As a doctor and a member of the Parliament, I appreciate your government's decision to bring price control on cardiovascular stents and knee implants. It has resulted in some degree of relief to patients and their families." Gandhi pointed out. According to him, many live saving and essential medical devices are still outside the price control and hospitals are charging very high margins, to the tune of 1700% from patients. "Eighty three percent of the people depend on private sector hospital and price controls along with ceiling on margins is the only mechanism to ensure access to medicines and medical devices at affordable price", his letter said.
Gandhi sees US action as a move to use to trade as a tool to undermine right to health of people.
The USTR had accused India of implementing a wide array of trade barriers that create serious negative effects on US commerce. The acceptance of the petitions from the US dairy and medical device industry and the GSP self initiated review will result in an overall review of India's compliance with the GSP market access criterion. The GSP is the largest and oldest U.S. trade preference program and is designed to promote economic development by allowing duty-free entry for thousands of products from designated beneficiary countries. The US Congress voted last month to renew the GSP through 2020.
In addition to India, Indonesia, and Kazakhstan are also under the US watch list.
In a press release that announced the decision, Jeffrey Gerrish, Deputy US Trade Representative claimed that GSP provides an important tool to help enforce the Trump Administration's key principles of free and fair trade across the globe. "The President is committed to ensuring that those countries who receive GSP benefits uphold their end of the bargain by continuing to meet the eligibility criteria outlined by Congress. We hope that India, Indonesia, and Kazakhstan will work with us to address the concerns that led to these new reviews", he stated.