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Pakistan's pharma sector objects to MFN status to India

Pak is apprehensive that if it allows pharma products import from India, local producers' livelihood might get impacted

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After its influential agriculture lobby, pharmaceutical industry associations in have now put their foot down against granting the most-favoured nation (MFN) status to India.

“Pakistan is apprehensive that if it allows the import of pharmaceutical products from India, local producers’ livelihood might get hampered. The pharmaceutical trade has huge potential for India. The pharmaceutical industry in Pakistan is at a nascent stage and is highly unorganised. So, their fear is natural,” a senior official told Business Standard.

Some associations in Pakistan have also complained that India does not follow the necessary drug regulation policies as prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO). According to one Pakistan official, his country will allow the import of only those drugs from India that are approved by the European Pharmacopoeia.

A recent study by Assocham said pharmaceutical trade between India and Pakistan is likely to emerge as one of the potential sectors after status is granted to India. The pharmaceutical industry in Pakistan is in the process of being organised and is expanding its wings across the country. Compared to India’s pharmaceutical industry, the size of local producers in Pakistan is quite small.

India is the third largest producer of pharmaceutical products in the world in terms of volume, and its domestic pharmaceutical industry is expected to reach $55 billion by 2020 from $12.26 billion as of 2009. Further, foreign markets of Indian pharmaceutical products are likely to increase to $70 billion by 2020, Assocham stated.

In an effort to liberalise trade and business relations with India, Pakistan for the first time ever had issued a negative list of items that India cannot export to Pakistan. The list, which became operational from March last year, contained 1,209 items.

Interestingly, while Pakistan claimed that it had trimmed the negative list of items, throwing open more than 7,000 products that India can export to Pakistan, it put all the items of India’s interest in the negative list in a clandestine manner. Some of those items are agricultural products, chemicals and pharmaceutical products.

Under the pharmaceuticals products category, as many as 49 items have been kept under the list of banned items. Some of the items that are banned include Ibuprofen, Paracetamol, Penicillin, Ampicillin, antibiotics containing insulin, eye drops, ointments and vaccines for veterinary medicine among others.

Once MFN status is granted to India, even the negative list is expected to be phased out.

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