The Modernized Chinese Medicine International Association takes a shot at the local government’s lack of support for the industry. Laws concerning exhibition samples and manufacturing requirements are over the top.
The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) and the Modernized Chinese Medicine International Association (MCMIA), held a press conference on Thursday promoting the 13th International Conference & Exhibition of the Modernization of Chinese Medicine and Health Products (ICMCM).
It wasn’t all smiles as MCMIA President, Vivien Chou, went on the offensive expressing disappointment at the lack of government efforts to support the industry.
While Ms. Chou expressed gratitude towards the TDC for their support in organizing the exhibition, she was less enamoured of the government. She claimed that many smaller firms could not take part due to the current laws that prevent the selling, importation, or possession of chinese medicine that have yet to be registered. This differs from laws that regulate western medicine which allows small volume exemptions for a “reasonable amount”.
“In order to register a particular product, you need at least 280,000 dollars and three years of time. Why would you spend all that effort when you don’t even know if there’s a market?”
In addition, Ms. Chou believes that it is simply too expensive for smaller firms to invest in a license just to take part in a three day exhibition. “In order to register a particular product, you need at least 280,000 dollars and three years of time. Why would you spend all that effort when you don’t even know if there’s a market?”
Some firms managed to resort to registering their products under the guise of traditional foods instead, which still limits their ability to market intrinsic medicinal effects in their products. Firms affected come from mainland China, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan.
Ms. Chou has called for the government to allow small volume exemptions for exhibitions, which would give firms the liberty of establishing business ties before paying the expensive fees.
Ms. Chou also explains, the requirement that all TCM products must adhere to strict GMP guidelines will be very costly to firms that export their products. For example, Australia does not officially recognize GMP practices, putting an avoidable burden on exporters. Ms Chou, reckons that the government should allow TCM firms to manufacture their products according to the country they are being marketed to. Such This compromise would allow more freedom with regards to registration and marketing.
According to the MCMIA, the DAB in fact made efforts in April to push for further government land allocation and funding for the industry and better regulation and registration laws. In May this year, the LegCo Panel on Health Services passed a motion that would make efforts to help practitioners of Chinese medicine and the development of the industry. A committee has also been established this year for focused discussions on related matters.
Yet, Ms. Chou still believes more needs to be done. “Beyond strict regulations, the government must also develop the supporting facilities required for the industry to move forward,” explained Ms. Chou. “Each government so far has expressed support, but essential actions to remove barriers have been lacking. Hong Kong must take another step forward for the traditional chinese medicine industry to truly flourish.”
“The Chinese medicine industry is developing very rapidly in Hong Kong, and has become an effective platform for promoting traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and healthcare products,” said Clare Wong, Assistant Executive Director of the HKTDC, during the conference. “For the first 6 months of 2014, Chinese medicine exports from Hong Kong amounted to HK$1.75 billion, an increase of 8.5% compared to 2013.”
“The ICMCM provides a great opportunity to bring together many of the leading experts in TCM to share their ideas and research,” Vivien Chou, said at the press conference. “Hong Kong is the ideal gateway for promoting and bringing a fuller understanding of TCM to the world, in the hope of helping people lead healthier lives.”
Ms. Chou laments, “We have the opportunity to get as many as 180 booths for the convention, but because of the barriers, we have only been able to fill around 130.” She adds, “Firms need to know the demand before they can invest in their product. With the regulations as it is, many firms won’t be able to take advantage of this platform to showcase their products, and thus have less of a chance for further development.”
The 13th ICMCM is jointly organized by HKTDC and MCMIA, and will feature over 130 exhibitions from 10 countries and regions, and bring together industry leaders for a series of information-sharing sessions starting tomorrow (14-16 August). The convention takes place at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre over three days, with the final day also open to public ticket-holders.