Remove Trade Barriers to Improve Health Systems, Lower Patients’ Costs

By Matthias Helble

It’s time to lift trade barriers that jack up prices of health products and curb the free flow of drugs, vaccines, and medical equipment.

Trade in health products has been flourishing as more and more people demand better health. At the same time, trade in health products is hampered by substantive trade barriers.

Recent ADB Institute research shows that countries around the world still apply tariffs and non-tariff measures that jack up prices and curb the entry of pharmaceuticals, vaccines, and medical equipment.

Trade in these products should be liberalized to bring down their prices and ensure they aren’t stuck in customs warehouses. In addition, improving trade facilitation performance—using the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement as a starting point—can be linked to improved handling of health-related products such as vaccines. This in turn boosts usage.

Studying the price differences for insulin across countries, ADB Institute researchers found that it is cheaper in open trade regimes, which ensure competition between providers.

In summary, bringing down trade barriers can help greatly in building up health systems and lowering patients’ costs.

To find out more about trade and health, and other links between trade and the Sustainable Development Goals, read our latest book.

This blog was originally published on Asia Pathways.