Indian officials are expected to use this week's trade talks with Japan to call for the removal of non-tariff barriers to pharmaceutical trade which are still in place in Japan despite the free trade agreement between the two nations which took effect last August.

Under the India/Japan comprehensive economic partnership (CEPA) - which is expected to create trade between the two nations worth $25 billion by 2014 - Japan has agreed to cut duties on imports of generic drugs from India and treat drug registration applications from Indian firms as they would applications from Japanese companies.

However, India's share of the Japanese pharmaceutical market - the world's second largest - is still less than 1%, and at this week's meetings between Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Anard Sharma and Japanese Minister of Economy Trade and industry Yukio Edano, "India will urge the Japanese side to remove all non-tariff barriers, so that real benefits envisaged under the CEPA are materialised," the Economic Times of India newspaper quotes an Indian official as stating.

The official also forecast that, with Japan likely to be keen to increase its generic market to help reduce healthcare costs, "the demand for generic medicines in the Japanese market and the capability of India to meet this demand will prove a win-win situation for both the countries."

Earlier this month, the Pharmaceutical Export Promotion Council of India (Pharmexcil) announced that is seeking a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the India/Japan Pharmaceutical Alliance (IJPA). Finalisation of the MoU would authorise the IJPA to act as Pharmexcil's representative in Japan, enabling the Indian export body to better identify and tackle the issues and challenges faced by Indian drugmakers based in Japan. A particular focus would be the provision of regulatory guidance for Indian companies who are seeking a presence there.

The potential for export growth to Japan's generic drugs market is huge, and presents an excellent business opportunity for Indian generics makers,  commented Dr P V Appaji, Pharmexcil's director general, as reported by Pharmabiz.

It is therefore “imperative that we strengthen this relation which is mutually beneficial for both the countries by providing a platform that will help us in understanding the industry dynamics of Japan, so that we can take requisite steps to help and guide Indian companies in doing their business in the country," said Dr Appaji.

Pharmexcil is already in talks with Japanese generic industry associations with a view to exploring business opportunities in their home market, he added, and suggested that this partnership will prove to be highly significant, as it will act as a catalyst for many other collaborations between Japan and India.