Beijing: India and China have reached an agreement on reduction of tariffs on the import of Indian medicines, particularly cancer drugs, to China, the Foreign Ministry said here on Monday. The announcement comes days after a Chinese movie on a leukaemia patient highlighted the need for paving the way for import of cheap Indian medicines.
However, it is not yet clear whether China has agreed to grant licences to Indian companies to sell cancer drug in the huge market here, which could be a major step.
About 4.3 million people are diagnosed with cancer annually in China, according to a report of the state-run China Central Television. Indian drugs, specially cancer curing medicines, are in big demand in China as they are cheaper than their western counterparts.
"We have seen China and India have reached agreement on the reduction of tariffs on medicines. For specifics, I will refer you to relevant competent authorities," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing on Monday.
"We believe expansion of imports and slashing of tariffs on anti-cancer medicines will also usher in great opportunities for India and other countries in the region," she added without providing any further detail.
Earlier in May, China had lifted tariffs on the import of cancer drugs. It was not clear whether Hua was referring to that announcement.
The May announcement had, however, failed to enthuse Indian companies as they cannot legally market their drugs in China as it requires license from the country's food and drug administration.
India has been demanding opening of China's IT and pharmaceutical sectors as part of measures to reduce over USD 51 billion trade deficit in over USD 84 billion bilateral trade.
While announcing the agreement, Hua referred to a new Chinese film on the plight of a leukaemia patient, highlighting the pressing need for China to pave the way for import of cheap Indian cancer drugs.
"There is a popular movie now in China called 'Dying to Survive'. That movie is about zero tariffs imposition on anti-cancer medicines in China," she said.
About the general reduction of tariffs, Hua said, "We have decided to expand our imports as well as opening up. This is what China needs in order to uphold the free trade and against protectionism. This is also in keeping up with our own pace of development and opening up."
"On July 1, the outcome of the round of negotiations under the Asia Pacific Trade Agreement released a document and we have agreed to slash tariffs by 33 per cent. So according to my understanding the slashing of tariffs by the Indian side is also part of this negotiation...We will also impose a negotiated agreed tariff rate on relevant items in accordance with our regulations," she said.
Both the sides have stepped up negotiation to import Indian rice, sugar and pharmaceuticals after a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping during the April 28 Wuhan informal summit.