U.S. reviewing Israel’s trade status


The United States is conducting a rare interim review of Israel’s place on a trade list that incurs possible sanctions.

Susan Schwab, the U.S. Trade Representative, is keeping Israel on her office’s priority watch list this year because of alleged trade violations. Placement on the list subjects Israel to greater scrutiny and possible sanctions.

However, Schwab also agreed to an “out of cycle” review because of the recent passage in Israel of copyright protection legislation and other positive steps. Such a review, which may result in Israel’s removal from the list before the 2009 list is prepared, is rare.

The decision came after U.S. Jewish groups and a slate of lawmakers in both houses of Congress last month pressed Schwab on the issue, saying Israel was being unfairly targeted by the pharmaceutical lobby for its allowance of the manufacture of generic drugs five years after a patented drug is approved for use. The current five-year period, Israel’s defenders said, is more than adequate.

The U.S. Trade Representative’s report, however, suggests Israel committed other violations, including failing to adequately address Internet piracy and leaking to Israeli manufacturers undisclosed pharmaceutical data it had obtained from U.S. manufacturers as part of Israel’s drug approval process.

“The United States will continue to work together with Israel during the Out-of-Cycle Review to ensure the strengthening of Israel’s intellectual property rights regime,” Schwab’s report said.

Leading the effort in Congress to keep Israel off the list are U.S. Reps. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who are both Jewish.

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