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‘Revision of KORUS FTA has little impact on healthcare sector’
  • By Kwak Sung-sun
  • Published 2017.08.18 11:45
  • Updated 2017.08.18 11:52
  • comments 0

With the U.S. Trade Representative having proposed talks with the Korean government to revise bilateral free trade agreement, the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) said the revision would not affect much the healthcare area.

The regulatory standards of the domestic pharmaceutical and medical equipment industry have already been internationalized so that any revision in the KORUS FTA would have little impact on them, the ministry says.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare's Commerce and FTA Officer Maeng Ho-young met with reporters recently to explain how the KORUS FTA renegotiations will impact the healthcare industry.

Maeng Ho-young맹호영, commerce and FTA officer of the ministry, made these and other points in a recent meeting with reporters.

“There are four key provisions in healthcare and pharmaceutical areas (concerning Korea-U.S. FTA), and one of them is about drug price of innovative global medicines,” Maeng said. “The U.S. officials say the current drug price incentive policy favors only the domestic companies while neglecting imported drugs, which they claim does not suit the FTA spirit.”

“Last December, U.S. President Donald Trump recommended U.S. pharmaceutical companies to lower drug prices while promising “to support the pricing preference of foreign drugs,” but this is impossible given the fiscal situations of each country,” he said.

However, Maeng said the ministry is working out measures to allow preferential pricing of imported drugs from next month if foreign companies make a social contribution here.

He added the upcoming FTA revision negotiation wouldn’t have much impact on the domestic healthcare field.

“(Before the FTA), all regulations in the healthcare field were based on Korean companies, but they have improved to international standards after the FTA,” Maeng said. “That has motivated domestic companies to go abroad.”

“In the FTA negotiation, medicines and medical equipment were significant issues. In fact, we didn’t make a concession but globalized our standards,” he went on to say. “Currently, Korea exports medicines worth $80 million to the U.S. and imports $1.2 billion from the latter, suffering from the trade deficit of 1,500 percent, leaving little room for U.S. to demand more in this area.”

However, there may be some changes in information protection right of biological drugs, Maeng noted.

“The U.S. recognizes exclusive right to protect data of biological medical products for 12 years by its law, but Korea recognizes only six years,” he said. “Washington may ask Seoul to extend the period from six to eight years citing a precedent in Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).”

In conclusion, he said, the two sides may not have much to change the existing agreement in the healthcare field in the upcoming FTA negotiation.


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