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CBBC Insights: Healthcare | Cross-border e-commerce: an answer to animal testing and red tape?

BritCham / CBBC
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By Anna Zhao
Sector Lead for Healthcare and Life Sciences
China-Britain Business Council
 
 
British and European companies selling cosmetic products in China are likely to be confronted by the ethical hurdle of animal testing. Those selling medical equipment for domestic use, such as portable medical devices, or supplying healthcare food or supplements, find themselves tied up in red tape. But does this mean no market access to China?
 
Not if there’s another solution. In this case the panacea is cross-border e-commerce, which offers new routes to market in the healthcare and life sciences industry, especially for healthcare and cosmetic products. The rise of the internet spells the “death of distance” – and it has given this industry a new lease of life.
 
Cross-border e-commerce will benefit individual Chinese consumers – not just retailers and wholesalers – since they gain access to higher-quality and better value-for-money products such as personal-care products and cosmetics, category I or II medical devices for domestic use (e.g. blood pressure monitors or infant thermometers) and health foods and supplements.
 
What will cross-border e-commerce mean for British companies?
E-commerce may enable British companies to circumvent some of the registration and filing demands of the Chinese regulators. The classic example is that of animal testing, which the Chinese Government requires be carried out for all cosmetics before they get to market – something which is prohibited in the UK and Europe in view of animal welfare. The UK Government is in ongoing discussions with Chinese policymakers and think-tanks to find a technological solution to replace animal testing, the ultimate goal being a revision of the regulations.
 
On 27 May, the State Drug Administration increased the registration fee for medical products. E-commerce will enable SMEs from the UK and other countries to enter the Chinese market faster and at less cost; and it is equally applicable to the consumer healthcare-product departments of large multinationals. As explained at a CBBC event on 3 June by speakers from the e-commerce site Kuajingtong and the direct sales department of Sinopharm (both of which are located in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone), foreign e-traders still need to work with Chinese business partners, or to establish their own team on the ground in China, in order to broaden their market and provide the necessary after-sales services.
 
Nevertheless, with the market developing rapidly and policy direction lagging in comparison, e-commerce in these fields remains rather a grey area. Premier Li Keqiang continues to push the “internet plus” concept, which aims to integrate the latest internet capabilities with technology in various sectors of industry. In my view, e-commerce represents the new “internet plus health” model. Once this model gets going and gains momentum, with the direction and backing of the Chinese Government, clarity will be brought to the grey area, enabling this emerging sector to develop to the benefit of Chinese consumers.
 
For more information, please contact the author, Anna Zhao, CBBC’s sector lead for healthcare and life sciences in China: anna.zhao@cbbc.org.cn.
 
 
跨境电商:医疗保健与美容产业发展的补充解决方案
 
行业透视:医疗
作者:赵熙女士
英中贸易协会医疗并生命科学商务顾问
 
 
如果在中国发展化妆品行业,英国和欧洲各国企业可能会面临其难以跨越的中国所要求的“动物实验”这个伦理问题障碍;如果在中国售卖家庭用(含可穿戴式)医疗设备或者保健品,则需面对许多繁文缛节的法规程序。但这是否意味着英国等国外保健产品和化妆品无法进入中国市场呢?
 
答案是否定的,因为跨境电子商务的存在为医疗保健和生命科学产业带来了新的发展渠道,尤其是对于保健产品和化妆品而言。互联网的兴起解决了因地域距离而带来的问题,并使跨国医疗保健和化妆品产业的发展成为可能。
 
发展跨境电子商务还将为中国的个人消费者(非零售或批发商)提供更加优质并性价比超佳的海淘商品,比如:
  • 个人护理及化妆品;
  • 适用于家庭的I和/或II类医疗器械如血压计、婴幼儿体温计等;
  • 保健食品和膳食营养补充剂。
那么,发展跨境电商对英国企业来说意味着什么?
 
在某种程度上,发展跨境电商,英国企业或可绕开中国监管当局对于上述产品所要求的注册/备案等程序。其中最具典型意义的是中国政府要求化妆品上市前需进行的动物实验。在英国和欧洲, 出于动物福利等伦理问题的考虑,这一做法是禁止的。英国政府一直在与中国相关政策制定者和智库等合作探索替代“动物实验”的技术解决方案, 并最终希望实现法律法规方面的调整。
 
今年5月27日,中国国家药监局提高了医疗类产品注册费用。通过上述跨境电商,广大的英国和外国小微企业将节省进入中国市场的时间和费用,而这其实同样也适用于大型跨国医疗企业的保健消费品部门。正如上海跨境通和国药/直销中心(均位于上海自贸区内)在6月3日关于医疗保健和化妆品在中国如何发展的演讲中指出,外国电商仍需要中国商务合作伙伴或构建自己在中国的本土团队以拓展市场并提供相应的必要的售后服务。
 
然而,由于市场发展很快, 而现有的政策指导相对落后,上述各类产品的跨境电商业务在某种程度上恐仍是“灰色地带”。中国总理李克强一直在鼓励“互联网+”的理念。我们认为这一倡议体现并实践了 “互联网+健康”的新模式。让大家一起努力,把这个新模式做起来,有了量,其所谓的“灰色地带”也会在政府的指导和支持下“洗白”,从而使这块新兴产业健康有序地向前发展,使中国消费者收益。
 
欲知更多详情,请联系英中贸易协会中国区医疗和生命科学商务顾问赵熙女士:anna.zhao@cbbc.org.cn
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