Merck & Co is pushing on with its emerging markets strategy and linking up with China’s Sinopharm Group Co.

The firms have signed “a statement of mutual intent” which will see them cooperate on human papillomavirus and other vaccine products in China. Merck currently markets the HPV treatment Gardasil and the companies added that they will also discuss the potential for promoting and marketing the US major’s pharmaceutical products in the country.

Merck chief executive Richard Clark said “we look forward to furthering our discussions with Sinopharm to establish a joint venture to significantly increase the number of people in China who have access to important vaccines”. He added that “expanding our business in emerging markets throughout the world is critical to the mission and growth” of the group “and innovative partnerships are a key element of our approach”.

Sinopharm said that it has maintained a good relationship with Merck for many years, adding that the growing importance being put on public health and the development of the pharmaceutical industry in China “will be promoted through this strategic cooperation”. Financial details of the pact have not been disclosed.

Merck has allied with a major player in China as Sinopharm is the largest state-owned pharmaceutical group. The Shanghai-based firm is China’s largest bio-pharmaceutical manufacturing company and its biggest (and the world’s third largest) drug distribution company, which is particularly useful given the government’s desire to expand healthcare to the country’s rural areas.

The New Jersey-headquartered giant recently stated that it expects the emerging markets to account for more than 25% of its global pharmaceutical and vaccine revenue in 2013, up from 17% at present.