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President Criticizes US Ambassador for Comments on Patent Law

March 31, 1995

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) _ President Carlos Menem chided the U.S. ambassador to Argentina on Thursday for putting ``intolerable pressure″ on the Congress to reject a patents bill.

The bill includes an eight-year transition period, during which a foreign pharmaceutical company may apply for a patent, but will not receive exclusive rights until Jan. 1, 2003. Meanwhile, an Argentine competitor could use the patented technology without paying royalties.

Ambassador James Cheek said in an interview published Wednesday in the newspaper Clarin that if the bill passed, Argentina ``would not receive a single peso (dollar) in foreign investments.″

The bill, strongly opposed by the U.S. government because of the special protection it gives local pharmaceutical makers, was passed early Thursday by Congress. It will become law unless Menem decides to veto it.

``Cheek’s remarks do not befit an ambassador and I think he got carried away and said things in bad taste,″ said Menem. ``This (put) intolerable pressure on Congress and the government.″

Cheek later was summoned to the Foreign Ministry where Foreign Minister Guido di Tella gave him a letter. The contents weren’t disclosed, but it was widely believed to be a formal protest of his comments.

The patent bill replaces a century-old law with one compatible with obligations established under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

Under the provisions of the recent Uruguay Round of GATT, developing countries are allowed a 10-year transition period so that their pharmaceutical companies can prepare for competition with foreign firms.

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