The local biopharmaceutical industry expects that Japan’s decision to remove South Korea from a list of trusted trading partners, also known as the whitelist, on Friday, will have no direct impact immediately, an industry group said.
However, the industry will keep a close eye on the situation as circumstances may change if the trade row continues to intensify, it added.
The whitelist is a list of goods designated by the Japanese government to simplify the procedures when exporting strategic products, including commodities, technologies, and software, which can be used for weapon development, in trade with foreign countries.
The Japanese ministry announced that it plans to remove Korea from the whitelist on July 1.
According to the Korea Biotechnology Industry Organization, products that may feel an impact due to Japan’s measures include pathogens, toxins, fermenters (bacterial and microbial growth incubators), and virus filters.
“Korean businesses use most of the products in the process of manufacturing biopharmaceuticals such as vaccines, which can also be used as strategic materials for developing biochemical weapons,” an organization official said. “As Korea was excluded from the whitelist, they will have to obtain separate licenses for products imported from Japan.”
The official noted that the license screening period takes an average of more than 90 days and the procedure requires additional documents such as the buyers’ pledge, contract papers, and documents containing the information on buyer’s business contents.
However, the organization expects that the local biopharmaceutical industry will not suffer much repercussion from the trade row between Korea and Japan.
“There are alternative developers of filters and fermenters in Germany and the U.S.,” the official said. “Therefore, the fallout of Korea being placed in the whitelist will have little impact on the local biopharmaceutical industry in the short-run.”
Industry watchers also expect that the whitelist exclusion will have little impact on the biopharmaceutical industry as medicines are related to saving lives.
“We do not expect any fallout from the whitelist exclusion,” an industry executive told Korea Biomedical Review, asking to remain anonymous. “Even if Japan does not approve raw materials, it is easy to obtain the supplies elsewhere, such as the U.S., Germany, and India.”
Also, the industry does not believe that Japan will not go to the point where it causes problems in medicine production, he added
The medical community also expects no immediate impact. As hospitals purchase medical devices and drugs in bulks, they have a stable supply that will last for a considerable period, and there are also alternatives to most treatments and devices.
“Medical devices are not something that a hospital buys out of the blue,” said a doctor, who works at a clinic in Seoul. “Even if the situation is prolonged, most Japanese medical equipment and pharmaceutical have alternatives that are manufactured in other countries.”
Japan is Korea’s fifth-largest importer and the largest exporter of medical supplies. According to the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, Korea exported $456.8 million worth of pharmaceuticals and imported $570 million in 2018.
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