Geneva - Deputy US Trade Representative and Ambassador to the WTO, Peter F. Allgeier
today announced that the United States joined Switzerland and Singapore in
introducing a proposal that would eliminate the tariffs imposed on the trade of
medicines and medical devices. According to United Nations statistics,
almost $33 billion in pharmaceuticals and $23 billion in medical equipment are
still traded subject to duty, predominantly by developing countries.
“It is ironic that many of the countries that are in urgent need of
cheap medicines also have a significant tax added to the drugs and medical
devices they import,” said Ambassador Allgeier. “As import tariffs on medicines
comprise a small proportion of government revenues, these countries should
immediately eliminate these tariffs and improve access to medicines and medical
The joint proposal calls for the elimination of tariffs and non-tariff
barriers to trade in medicines and medical devices as part of the WTO’s
non-agriculture market access agenda. The United States has worked closely
with healthcare NGOs in developing this proposal.
A recent research paper published by the AEI-Brookings Joint Centre finds
that several countries inflate the price of medicines to patients by around 10%
and often higher .
Researchers Roger Bate of AEI and Richard Tren & Jasson Urbach of
Africa Fighting Malaria find a significant inverse relationship between the
level of import tariffs and access to medicines. This relationship is even
stronger when one analyzes the effect of import tariffs on vaccines and rates of
Last year a report by the World Health Organization confirmed that many
countries, many of which are grappling with severe public health problems such
as HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria, continue to impose import tariffs on
medicines and medical devices. The WHO urges countries to remove these
tariffs and argues that the loss of government revenue will be
With increased international travel and trade, healthcare of all
nations is now increasingly connected. Removing tariffs on
medicines and medical devices, such as essential diagnostic equipment, will
assist all countries in tackling both emerging and existing health
problems. Support for this proposal would improve development and public
health and advance the aims of the Doha Development Agenda.
Attached is a copy of the proposal introduced today. It is also available on
the Internet: (Click here for a copy of the proposal.).
 ‘Still Taxed to Death’ by Roger Bate,
Richard Tren and Jasson Urbach, available at