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Senate Standing Committee on Commerce on Tuesday approved the longstanding Geographical Indications (GI) (Registration and Protections) Bill, 2019 meant to promote "Made in Pakistan" products and prevent Pakistani products from being usurped.
GIs identify the products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or reputation attributable to their place or origin. There are generally agricultural, traditional or manufactured products that have gained a reputation in the local, national or international market due to their unique qualities. It allows the producers to get a premium price of their commodities while preserving their unique identity.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is also Minister in-Charge of Commerce Ministry, in his written statement about objectives and reasons for the Bill, states that the proposed Bill will protect rights of Pakistani producers, operators and consumers of the prudent bearing the GI and encourage the rural people to utilize their traditional knowledge and create skills for bringing in new job opportunities for them.
The provision of local job opportunities with appropriate share to all local stakeholders of the value chain involved in the management of geographical indication system, will also address the issue of rural migration.
Moreover, the GI law will enable the formation and maintenance of a nation-wide Geographical Indication production cycle to build viable supply chain and establish a network of quality products. The Bill will also provide a sound trading and marketing environment that facilitates the ease of business and trade to fulfil the purposes set out in the obligations under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement.
The federal government will be the holder of GI and public body will obtain registration of the GI as a registrant. The rights to use the GI will be conferred to authorized users who will apply for use of GI with the assets of the registrant.
The list of prospective GIs is as follows: Basmati rice, Bahawalpur Chunri, Bhakar Karna oil, Chitrali embroidery, Gujranwala coloured pottery, Gujranwala metal engravings, Hala coloured woodwork, Hala ki Ajrak, Harnoli peanut, Hunza apples, Hunza peach, Hunza apricot, Hunza plum, Hunza Rubi, Hunza walnut, Hyderabad Rabri(sweets), Hyderabad Bangles, Kamalya Khadar, Kashmir Pashmina, Kashmir Turmiline, Khanpur Khoa( sweet), Khattak dance, khewra salt, Khairpur date, Khushab Dhodha ( sweets), Khyber guns, Kilash dress, Kohat Shawl, Kohati Chappal, Kundri red chili, Lahore metal work, Larkana guava, Makran dates, Mansehra tea, Mardan Paray (sweets), Multan Blue Pottery, Multan Chaunsa, (mango), Multan Camel skin art, Multan mango, Multani clay, Multani Khussa, Multani Sohn Halva, Multan woven cotton (bet shteets), Namal trout, Okara potato, Patuki floriculture, Perry Dot Valley Dot Stone, Peshawar Chapli Kabab, Peshawari Chappel, Peshawri Qahwah, Phulkari, Potohar stone work, Qasuri Methi, Qasuri Haldi, Quetta red pomegranates, Rajar sweets (Gur), Sahiwal cattle, Skardu Aqua Marine, Skardu Topaz, Sukkar dates etc Sargodha Kinnow etc.
India had started marketing Peshawari Chappel in the international market as its own product but stopped the marketing after receiving information that Pakistan is making GI law.
Chairman Intellectual Property Organisation, Mujeeb Khan asserted that with the promulgation of GI law, Made in Pakistan, will get priority. The Standing Committee was informed that India had approved GI law in 1989 whereas Pakistan started the process in 2005 when first draft was prepared. A number of products of Pakistan and India are similar and India has claimed 361 kinds of products/items. The committee was further informed that 121 countries have adopted GI laws.
The committee was also informed that copyright law was formulated in 1962 which needs to be updated in accordance with best international practices. New copy rights law is being formulated.
Chairman IPO informed the committee that presently, one application is pending with IPO regarding collective mark registration under GI law. He further stated that the issue of collective mark registration is pending with Sindh High Court.
Standing Committee also sought performance report of trade officers appointed in Pakistani embassies abroad. The committee members argued that the performance of trade officers is not satisfactory. Senator Imam ud-Din Shaikh said that there is no improvement in exports for the last ten years.
"We have stated again and again that Trade Officers should be made part of the Standing Committee meetings through video link," Chairman Standing Committee said adding that he would request Chairman Senate to install video link facilities.
Senator Dilawar Khan, who is member of Board of Directors (BoD) of Trade Development Authority of Pakistan, again raised questions on the performance of the organisation, saying that he was asking questions for the last one and half years but has received no response from the organisation. He offered to resign as Board member. Previously, Senator Salim Mandviwala had resigned as Board member.
GI Bill 2019 will now be presented before the Upper House of the Parliament for its consent. The Bill will then be forwarded to the National Assembly for its deliberations.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020