China’s Foreign Ministry on Monday revealed that Beijing and New Delhi have agreed to slash tariffs on the import of Indian medicines, including anti-cancer drugs, which have a substantial demand in China due to cheaper pricing than their Western variants.
The announcement comes close on the heels of a Chinese movie about smuggling affordable drugs from India gaining a phenomenal public response.
“The relevant departments have formulated specific measures on promoting China-India pharmaceutical trade cooperation and granting greater access to drugs from India. We believe that stronger pharmaceutical trade cooperation will contribute to the wellbeing of the people in our two countries,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters.
As if it was timed with the latest agreement, the Xu Zheng-starrer comedy-drama “Dying to Survive” the need for affordable medicines in China and has reportedly amassed nearly 200 million U.S. dollars in four days since its release on Friday, becoming this summer’s biggest Chinese blockbuster.
Based on real events, the film tells the story of a drug dealer - played by Xu - who smuggles generic drugs from India to sell to leukemia patients who can't afford the exorbitantly priced official medication.
“A very popular film called ‘Dying to Survive’ that is on show these days touches on the issue of anti-cancer drugs from India,” said Hua, referring to the movie.
“China and India are witnessing a growth in pharmaceutical trade, and the two sides are in sound communication on opening the Chinese market to drugs from India and conducting dialogue and cooperation between the two sides' pharmaceutical industries,” she added.
The latest figures available from India’s Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council (PHARMEXCIL), show the country exported drugs and pharmaceuticals worth 138 million U.S. dollars to China in 2014-15. Many Indian generic medicines cost about one-tenth the price of their Western variants sold in China. Beginning this May, China has removed duties on 28 medicines in a move likely to benefit Indian drug makers.
“China has exempted import tariffs (duties) for 28 drugs, including all cancer drugs, from May 1st. Good news for India’s pharmaceutical industry and medicine export to China. I believe this will help reduce trade imbalance between China and India in the future,” China’s Ambassador to India Luo Zhaohui had tweeted announcing the decision.
Referring to China’s recent measures on tariff reductions in a range of areas, Hua stressed Beijing will continue to seek further opening-up.
“We have taken the initiative to expand imports, reduced the import tariffs by a large margin for cars, parts and components and daily necessities, and adopted zero tariff for anti-cancer drugs. These positive measures taken on the grounds of our own development needs have been well received by the relevant countries,” she said.
“China will continue with its opening up at a pace set by itself in accordance with its goals and development needs. We believe that greater imports and tariffs reduction by China will bring enormous market opportunities for regional countries including India and the whole world,” she added.
Hua also confirmed that India and China had reduced import tariffs of several products from July 1, following the fourth round of negotiations under the Asia Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA), which includes Bangladesh, Laos, South Korea and Sri Lanka.
China said it will reduce tariffs on 8,549 items, including chemical and agricultural products, while India will do the same for 3,142 products.
By Abhishek G Bhaya