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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump's new trade agreement with China includes patent protections that could be a big boon to drug companies.

Why it matters: China's enormous population is a lucrative market for pharma, and the country is also actively trying to build up its own domestic drug industry. But it's not guaranteed that China will actually abide by the agreement.

Details: The trade agreement would set up patent protections in China that are similar to U.S. law.

  • It would help protect branded drugs from generic competition while they're still under patent protection.
  • Drugmakers could also receive a patent extension if there's a delay during the approval process.

The big picture: This is good news for Big Pharma, especially after biologic protections were recently removed from the trade agreement with Mexico and Canada that's currently making its way through Congress.

  • But the agreement doesn't include a measure giving drugs a certain patent exclusivity period, something the industry has been pushing for in trade deals in the recent past, specifically for biologics.

Between the lines: If China complies with the agreement, it'd be great for American drug companies, which could enter the Chinese market with the expectation that their patents would be respected. But it could also be good for China's budding drug industry.

  • "This is a way for them to be able to create a domestic industry but also maintain affordability and access, which China is going to do anyway because it’s a controlled economy," said Chris Campbell, chief strategist at Duff & Phelps.

The bottom line, from Axios China reporter Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian:

  • It's up to China to implement the legal protections it has agreed to in the deal -- but significantly, the agreement does include six pages outlining an evaluation and enforcement mechanism. That's a step in the right direction.
  • But Chinese government officials have previously falsified data, and China has reneged on agreements in the past.

Go deeper: China offers drug companies market access in exchange for lower prices

Go deeper

Justice Department drops insider trading inquiry against Sen. Richard Burr

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) walking through the Senate Subway in the U.S. Capitol in December 2020. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

The Department of Justice told Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) on Tuesday that it will not move forward with insider trading charges against him.

Why it matters: The decision, first reported by the New York Times, effectively ends the DOJ's investigation into the senator's stock sell-off that occurred after multiple lawmakers were briefed about the coronavirus' potential economic toll. Burr subsequently stepped down as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Netflix tops 200 million global subscribers

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Netflix said that it added another 8.5 million global subscribers last quarter, bringing its total number of paid subscribers globally to more than 200 million.

The big picture: Positive fourth-quarter results show Netflix's resiliency, despite increased competition and pandemic-related production headwinds.

Janet Yellen plays down debt, tax hike concerns in confirmation hearing

Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen at an event in December. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Janet Yellen, Biden's pick to lead the Treasury Department, pushed back against two key concerns from Republican senators at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday: the country's debt and the incoming administration's plans to eventually raise taxes.

Driving the news: Yellen — who's expected to win confirmation — said spending big now will prevent the U.S. from having to dig out of a deeper hole later. She also said the Biden administration's priority right now is coronavirus relief, not raising taxes.

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