EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht has said Wednesday that the European Union and India have reached an agreement on generic drug shipments. This statement comes days after India faced off with one of its leading trade partners.
"We have discussed this in detail with our Indian counterpart," De Gucht said during a visit to Canada for free trade talks.
"I think it's fair to say that in substance we have an agreement, but to put this into practice we have to modify European regulations or European legislation... and we have to do that through the co-decision procedure which obviously takes some time," he said.
"But on substance we have an agreement," De Gucht added. He offered no details on the deal.
A noisy protest was staged last week outside an India-EU summit over what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described at the summit opening as "painstaking negotiations" to strike one of the world's biggest trade pacts.
Doctors fear new provisions written into trade deals such as the EU-India FTA -- which both sides say may be ready for signature in the next few months -- will undermine future supplies of cheap generic drugs.
Generics from India have pushed prices for anti-AIDS drugs down 99 percent, from 10,000 dollars a year per patient in 2000 to 70 dollars currently.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) itself buys 80 percent of its AIDS drugs from India, and the humanitarian organization says it is currently keeping 160,000 people alive on the treatment.
India and Brazil last May issued a legal challenge against the 27-nation EU at the World Trade Organization after several shipments of generic medicines were seized or delayed at EU ports.
India's trade minister has reportedly said its WTO complaint would be suspended as a result of the deal struck with Brussels.
De Gucht's spokesman, however, told AFP the EU is still awaiting India's formal withdrawal of the complaint.