Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Tuesday, January 29, 2002

China's Health Sector Expects Enhancement with WTO Entry

China will soon see an overall improvement in the health sector now that it has already joined the World Trade Organization (WTO), according to an international seminar Monday in Beijing. The week-long meeting brought together China's top health officials, representatives of medical institutions as well as home and foreign experts to discuss the influence of China's WTO entry on the health sector.


WTO entry brings benefits in health sector
Chinese people will be able to visit an experienced foreign dentist in the neighborhood. Patients suffering from AIDS and other serious illnesses can have access to advanced imported medicines more cheaply.

These are only part of the benefits WTO membership will bring to China, said Wang Longde, vice minister of Public Health.

One of the most cheerful messages for the public was that tariff on imported medicine are to drop from the current average of 14 percent to between 5.5 to 6.5 percent by next year.

The tariff level on imports of large-sized medical equipment will be halved to 10 percent by 2003.

Problems also arise
Yet problems will also arise. Wang highlighted the food safety issue and the growing difficulties of preventing viruses and bacteria from foreign sources as China interacts more with the outside world.

Citing official figures, Wang said that 82,000 people crossing the border into or out of China last November had a virus or disease, including 210 carrying with HIV or AIDS.

As the first seminar gathering top Chinese health officials, it will facilitate their work on a series of health issues related to the WTO era, such as policies on health, opening services and setting regulations.

Influence of China's WTO Entry on Health Sector

World Trade Organization (WTO) entry will speed up the ongoing restructuring of China's pharmaceutical industry and its health care reform.

Regulatory changes stemming from WTO accession will lower tariffs on imported drugs and bring welcome market opening in some areas.

Other changes will be less predictable. For instance, private insurers will be allowed to offer services after WTO entry. This complements an existing trend where individuals are being made responsible for a portion of their healthcare costs. This is likely to depress demand for healthcare in the short term, as people bear the true price of their healthcare. Private insurance could counteract this as it will focus on higher quality services and drugs.

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