The United States has proposed elimination of all tariff and non-tariff barriers to trading of pharmaceutical products and medical devices in order to facilitate low-cost access to healthcare facilities, reports BDNEWS.
A release from the US mission in Geneva said, developing countries impose duties up to 40 per cent on medicines and 30 per cent on medical devices. Yet one-third of the world's population, especially people in the poorest countries, lack access to medical care and has low life expectancy and high rates of disease.
These facts are revealed in the proposal, submitted jointly by the United States, Singapore and Switzerland, in alliance with some non-governmental organisations.
"It is ironical that many of the countries, which are in urgent need of cheap medicines, also have significant taxes added to the drugs and medical devices they import," US Deputy Trade Representative Peter Allgeier said.
"As import tariffs on medicines comprise a small proportion of government revenues, these countries should immediately eliminate these tariffs and facilitate access to medicines and medical devices," he added.
The US has backed the idea of supplementing the general WTO (World Trade Organisation) negotiations on reducing tariffs in industrial-goods trade with the sector-specific negotiations. Such negotiations allow a critical mass of countries, representing most of the world trade in a sector, to eliminate tariffs in that sector.
Besides medicines and medical devices, sector-specific negotiations have also been suggested for chemical, electronic equipment and forest products.
WTO negotiations on reducing tariffs on industrial goods have advanced little since the larger negotiating round, formally called the Doha Development Agenda, was launched in 2001.
The developing countries have resisted making concessions on non-agricultural tariffs, until the wealthier countries commit to reduce agricultural subsidies substantially.