Free Trade and Markets in Healthcare: Lessons from Asia

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Editors: Dr Debashis Chakraborty and Philip Stevens

Bookwell Publications, New Delhi

About the book
It is widely recognised that the global liberalisation of trade in goods over the last several decades has driven unprecedented increases in productivity, innovation and living standards. However, many policymakers remain reluctant to open up services such as healthcare to international trade and internal competition, because of the fear that it will dismantle state healthcare systems and sow division and social inequality.

The healthcare sectors of many emerging markets – even those in the dynamic free-trading countries of Asia – remain relatively insulated from outside ideas and capital. Governments remain wedded to the idea that “Universal Health Care” requires the state to take the dominant role in the allocation and provision of health goods and services. As a result of such thinking, the many healthcare systems in Asia remain parochial, sleepy and ineffective compared to other growth sectors. 

This volume of essays aims to challenge such thinking. Its contributors – a range of scholars and NGO leaders from Asian countries and elsewhere – examine the evidence on a number of issues related to trade, markets and health, and question a number of dearly held axioms of the public health world. Its authors argue, amongst other things, that:

  • Free trade is a powerful agent of improved health, via higher incomes and ‘knowledge spillovers’ 
     
  • Asian governments stand to benefit from enormous savings if they properly open their health sectors to international trade
     
  • Intellectual property provisions within international trade regimes have little bearing on access to medicines by the poor, and recent attempts by government to expropriate the property rights of foreign pharmaceutical companies are motivated more by industrial policy than concern for patients
     
  • New technology rather than new regulation is the most sensible answer to stemming the global trade in fake and spurious medicines
     
  • Public sector provision is failing the poor in countries like India, China and the Philippines
     
  • The private sector has the potential to revolutionise healthcare provision for the poorest in Asia, if harnessed correctly.

Contributers include Philip Stevens (Emerging Markets Health Network); Fredrik Erixon (European Centre for Political Economy); Yu Hui and Xingyuan Feng (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), Debashis Chakraborty (Indian Institute of Foreign Trade); Amir Ullah Khan (Indian economist and author); Nonoy Oplas (Philippine Minimal Government Thinkers); and Ali Salman (Policy Research Institute, Islamabad)

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