New Delhi: India and Singapore on Tuesday signed an agreement to facilitate easier market access of generic drugs into the south-east Asian city-state, and launched a review of a nearly five-year-old economic cooperation agreement whose scope they are seeking to expand.
Commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma and his Singapore counterpart Lim Hng Kiang signed an agreement on a special scheme for registration of generic medicinal products from India, which seeks to fast-track the registration process for generic drugs in Singapore.
“This particular memorandum of understanding will facilitate early registration and approval of Indian generic medicines in Singapore,” Sharma told reporters at a joint press conference with Kiang.
India is the world’s fourth largest producer of generic drugs. “The agreement will encourage the process of harmonization in certification of generic drugs. This also shows that Singapore has expressed confidence in Indian generic drugs,” said D.G. Shah, secretary general of the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance.
Lim said earlier Indian drug manufacturers needed regular clearances to export generic drugs to Singapore. Now with the deal, if countries such as the US and the UK have accepted Indian certification for particular generic drugs, then such drugs do not need any further clearance from Singapore authorities. “Accordingly, the registration process will become faster.”
“It is a major movement forward,” Sharma said.
Both countries also launched the second review of the comprehensive economic cooperation agreement (CECA) between them to expand the scope of trade liberalization in goods, services and investment. The two are targeting doubling bilateral trade to $32 billion (around Rs1.44 trillion) from the current level of $16 billion by 2015.
India and Singapore signed the CECA in August 2005. The first review of the pact was completed in 2007 and focused largely on implementation issues.
Sharma said the review has been necessitated by India signing trade deals with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and South Korea recently, with larger commitments for trade liberalization. Both countries agreed to expand the product coverage under CECA and bring about parity with rules of origin in other free trade agreements signed by India.
The review of CECA will be completed within a year, with officials from both countries meeting once every quarter, Sharma said. “In March, officials of both countries met and prepared the ground, identifying the road map,” he said.
When asked whether the review will lead to trade liberalization in goods surpassing the commitment under the India-Asean free trade agreement, Lim said, “We hope so.”
The review will also attempt to expand the mutual recognition agreement to facilitate the movement of professionals in services such as healthcare and architecture.
Commerce secretary Rahul Khullar said the mutual recognition agreement in services will lead to a free flow of skills. “We have (a) higher level of ambition in services,” he said.
India was Singapore’s 11th largest trading partner in 2009. “Although bilateral trade took a dip due to the economic crisis last year, it has quickly rebounded to seven billion Singapore dollars in the first quarter of 2010, up 38% from the same period in 2009,” a statement by Singapore’s trade and industry ministry said.
Sharma said he has urged his counterpart to encourage Singaporean companies to invest in one of the 24 nodes of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor.
“We view Singapore as a financial hub to source funds to the infrastructure sector in India,” Sharma said.
The two sides will also explore and develop cooperation in areas such as science and technology, intellectual property rights (IPR), and the media, as provided for under CECA. They also agreed to establish an India-Singapore CEOs Forum.
PTI contributed to this story.