China agrees to cut tariffs on Indian cancer drugs says Foreign Ministry

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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 today, 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 far 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 here today. "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.