China said on Monday it had reached an agreement with India to reduce tariffs and increase imports of Indian medicines, particularly anti-cancer drugs, part of moves to broaden its trade relations amid its on-going spat with the United States.
Both India and China slashed import tariffs of a range of products starting July 1, following the fourth round of negotiations under the Asia Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA), which also includes Bangladesh, Laos, South Korea and Sri Lanka.
China said it would reduce tariffs on 8549 items including chemical and agricultural products, while India would do likewise for 3142 products.
India has particularly pressed China to open up its market for pharmaceuticals, which was highlighted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the April 28 Wuhan Summit with President Xi.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Monday that China and India had reached an agreement on reducing tariffs on Indian medicines, especially anti-cancer drugs. There is widespread demand in China for Indian anticancer drugs which are often one-tenth the cost of the Western drugs that are available in China.
"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," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.
"We have seen China and India have reached agreement on the reduction of tariffs on medicines," Hua added without providing further details. It wasn't clear if Hua was referring to the May 1 announcement by China to reduce import tariffs on 28 medicines including all cancer drugs.
The issue has recently come under the spotlight after a film about the high cost of anti-cancer drugs in China became an overnight box office success. Releasing on Thursday, "Dying to Survive" has grossed more than Rs 1500 crore in the Chinese box office.
"There is a popular movie now in China called 'Dying to Survive,'" Hua said. "That movie is about zero tariffs imposition on anti-cancer medicines in China." Under the APTA, China's tariff reductions from July 1 cover chemicals, agricultural products including soybean, medical products, clothing, steel and aluminium products.
The reduction on soybean is significant as it follows Beijing raising tariffs on US exports of soybean, part of retaliatory measures to President Donald Trump announcing tariffs on up to $50 billion worth of Chinese imports. On the July 1 reductions by both countries, Hua said under the APTA, China had "agreed to slash tariffs by 33 per cent".
"We will also impose a negotiated agreed tariff rate on relevant items in accordance with our regulations," 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."