Chinese companies have over the past five years obtained exclusive distribution rights in Taiwan for 29 percent of new pharmaceuticals, the Legislative Yuan said, urging the government to intervene, as it said the issue extends far beyond Chinese agency over the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Right of agency for drug distribution has received widespread attention this year, after Germany’s BioNTech inked a deal with Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group (上海復星醫藥集團) to develop and distribute its COVID-19 vaccine in Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and Macau.
This has complicated Taipei’s efforts to procure the vaccine.
Private entities have stepped in to purchase doses to donate to the government, including Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (台積電), the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation and the Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密)-affiliated Yonglin Foundation.
In a report dated Monday, the Legislative Yuan’s Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Bureau decried the arrangement as unreasonable.
“Requiring South Korea to purchase vaccines through a North Korean distributor or Israel to go through a Palestinian firm would be preposterous,” the report said.
Granting exclusive distribution rights in a nation to its political and military adversary is ethically problematic, it said.
Due to the antagonism and mutual distrust between the two nations, it is highly unlikely that they would complete a contract and instead use it as a tool for political manipulation, it added.
This would further hinder transactions and jeopardize the right to healthcare of the “represented country,” the report added.
Right of agency over pharmaceuticals has long been an issue, the bureau said.
Over the past five years, Chinese firms have obtained exclusive distribution rights to Taiwan for 29 percent of new pharmaceuticals, posing an increasingly serious problem that cannot be ignored, it said.
The bureau recommended that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and national security agencies intervene in China’s attempts to monopolize Taiwan’s pharmaceutical market.
Using appropriate channels, officials should persuade multinationals to avoid signing right-of-agency contracts for Taiwan with Chinese distributors, thereby preventing human rights, moral and political controversies, it said.
All import licensing procedures should follow WTO protocols, as Taiwan, Germany and China are all members of the global trade body, the report added, recommending that the Ministry of Economic Affairs seek a decision from the WTO or another international economic forum to ensure fair and timely access to vaccines worldwide.
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