Asia Minute: China Cuts Tariffs on Indian Cancer Drugs

Jul 13, 2018

A variety of chemotherapy drugs in vials and an IV bottle
Credit Bill Branson / National Cancer Institute

Most of the news about trade this week has focused on increasing tension between China and the United States. But there’s another trade story this week: involving a case where China is lowering tariffs.

The Chinese market appears to be opening just a bit wider for pharmaceutical drugs from India. This week, China announced it has reached an agreement to cut tariffs on drugs from India — including those used to treat cancer.

India’s publication Business Today reports there is widespread demand in China for cancer drugs from India — which are often about one-tenth the cost of western drugs that are available in the country.

The deal on drug imports is a follow-up to ongoing multi-lateral discussions among a small group of countries. The Asia Pacific Trade Agreement includes China and India as well as Bangladesh, Laos, Sri Lanka and South Korea.

In discussing the cut in tariffs on cancer drugs, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson mentioned a popular movie in China called “Dying to Survive.”

It’s about a leukemia patient facing high prices for treatment.

China Central Television says about 4.3 million people in China are diagnosed with cancer each year.

Air pollution in Beijing
Credit 大杨 / Flickr

While China has agreed to cut tariffs on cancer treatments, there is some uncertainty about what comes next.

The Press Trust of India says it is NOT yet clear whether China has agreed to grant licenses to Indian companies to directly market and sell cancer drugs in the Chinese market.