China is planning to embark upon a number of joint projects in the pharmaceutical industry in Belarus, according to local press reports. One Chinese state-controlled drugmaker is said to be planning to invest between US$10mn-US$20mn in a factory producing solid medical preparations in the city of Borisov.

The deals were announced as Belarus' President Alyaksandr Lukashenka embarked upon a three-day state visit to China during which the two countries signed a number of co-operation agreements concerning trade, tourism and science. Belarus and China hope that bilateral trade will reach US$1bn in the next few years.

Under the plans, Belarussian companies will use Chinese loans to upgrade facilities in line with Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standards. It is hoped that this will boost Belarussian drug exporters, enabling them to compete more effectively in foreign markets. Currently, Belarus' drug industry is dominated by imports, with only 21% of domestic drug sales coming from local manufacturers.

Foreign investment will be vital for the development of Belarus' drug sector in the coming years, according to industry sources. With over 3,500 drugmakers predominately producing cheap, low-tech products, China also lacked the technology to compete overseas until recently. However, foreign investment and modernisation measures have allowed drug exports to overtake imports for the first time.