Until recently, India produced 70% of its bulk-drug needs, but that figure has now fallen to 30%. A Commerce Ministry statement
of July 16, 2011, notes that the Indian government is worried that the amount of cheap bulk-drug imports from China have led
to a sharp fall in the share of domestic production.
Some have called India's low-export penetration into China embarrassing, including P.V. Appaji, executive director of Pharmexcil,
the Indian government's pharmaceutical export promotion council. "Take a look at how China is supporting its bulk drug industry,"
Appaji says. "With financial incentives worth $75 million, foreign multinationals are keen to set up base there. In India,
though Big Pharma tends to form close collaborations, such as risk-sharing outsourcing to codevelop drug candidates, very
few of them are willing to permanently set up a decent size R&D center here. In order to retain our export advantage, we need
to think like China and counter multinationals at their own game."
India's Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma has also gone on record to express disappointment over China not fulfilling
its promise of importing more pharmaceutical products from India. In August 2010, at the 8th meeting of the India-China Joint
Economic Group, China had assured India that it would give India access through government contracts in sectors like pharmaceuticals
and IT. In a statement to India's Parliament on Aug. 24, 2011, Sharma expressed concern that a year had gone by without China
fulfilling its promise to import more. He said the matter would be taken up for discussions again with China.
The two nations are planning a series of talks, to begin Sept. 26, 2011, to shape a framework for enhanced economic cooperation
in the pharmaceutical, technology, energy, steel, and telecommunication sectors. A goal of the so-called Strategic Economic
Dialogue is to figure out how to grow bilateral trade to reach $100 billion by 2015. Discussions will focus, among other topics,
on enhancing exchange and cooperation of pharmaceutical API plant supervision.
A. Nair is a freelance writer based in Mumbai.