BIA response to UK government’s plans for free trade deals and tariff plans

Steve Bates OBE, Chief Executive of the BioIndustry Association said: “For the UK life sciences sector to understand the benefit of any free trade deal we need to see the granular detail of what the UK hopes to achieve. Strengthening Intellectual Property regimes globally would benefit innovative UK life sciences businesses, so it is positive to see the Government recognises the importance of this issue in planning a US FTA.”


“The Government states it is seeking to “secure provisions that support UK creative and innovative industries” even though this is not yet spelt out. As the US negotiating objectives also seek to “provide strong protection and enforcement for new and emerging technologies”, in intellectual property there may be common ground to be explored. The UK government document is more detailed on what it hopes not to lose, and less detailed on what it hopes to achieve.  Much of this is highly technical and sector specific.

“Given that most recent global trade deals have had a pharmaceutical annex, and the UK has proposed this approach for negotiations with the EU, the UK government should consider a consistent approach for other trade deals to enable effective industry input especially given the ambitious timescales envisioned.”  

On tariffs, he added:

“The BIA has asked for three years that the UK government work with other World Trade Organisation (WTO) members, to update the Pharmaceuticals Tariff Elimination Agreement to reflect scientific advancements and introduce an ongoing update mechanism. The WTO Pharmaceuticals Tariff Elimination Agreement is the key non-binding agreement between key pharmaceutical producing countries to reduce duties to zero on certain pharmaceutical products. The agreement covers finished pharmaceutical products and specified active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and intermediaries (biologic products are also typically included).

“The agreement needs a significant update to the specified list of APIs and intermediaries that qualify for zero percent duties. Despite our ask there has been no movement on this at the WTO, nor has the UK sought to put it on the WTO agenda. This agreement has not been updated in the last decade and a significant number of new APIs and intermediaries are now not included. As a result, innovative pharmaceuticals products manufactured in the UK could be at risk of being subject to tariffs in the years ahead.”