Pakistan to draft GI law

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It aims at bring international distinction to indigenous Pakistani products

As the negotiators in Geneva, last month, approved a revised international registration system providing protection for names that identify the geographic origin of products such as coffee, tea, fruits, wine, pottery, glass and cloth, Pakistan also plans to enact a Geographical Indication Law (GI law) to bring international distinction to indigenous Pakistani products.

Minister for Commerce Khurram Dastgir Khan said on Thursday that the GI law would be enacted for the registration of Pakistani products having unique attributes for recognition at the international level. The GI is a concept of international trade which associates a certain product to a specific location thus identifying its originality and uniqueness. Such an indication to any product distinguishes it from the rest of same kind thus bringing premium to its price.

Dastgir said directions had been issued to the ministry of commerce to initiate coordination with the concerned stakeholders of the intellectual property organisation Pakistan, ministry of national food security and research, concerned provincial departments and private sector. He said the GI law was needed and would enhance visibility of several Pakistani export items in the international market.

The government has remained under pressure from the basmati growers and exporters since the start of this millennium to enact the GI law to oust India from the basmati market. However, the commerce ministry and ministry of agriculture failed to enact the law.

Pakistan possesses several such products which have distinctive attributes through which they can make a niche in the international market once they are certified as GI. Basmati rice, Chaunsa mango, Hunza apricot, Peshawari chappal, Sindhi ajrak are among the top Pakistani products which will get international recognition under the GI law.

Experts are of the opinion that if Pakistan enacts the law then export of Pakistani products like basmati rice and fruits will pick up in near future which at present are under a lot of pressure from India. Absence of GI law has led to the failure of investment in the basmati rice processing, especially in Punjab, during the last decade, even though initially it was projected that the new investment along with GI certification will open new markets in Middle East, Far East, Europe and North America.

It is important to mention a diplomatic conference in Geneva on May 21, 2015, which adopted the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement on Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications. The Geneva Act allows the international registration of GIs, in addition to appellations of origin, and permits the accession to the Lisbon Agreement by certain intergovernmental organisations. The new GI agreement drafted by the World Intellectual Property Organisation will lead to new era of trade of GI products.