Pakistan’s Basmati case in EU in danger as IPO remains headless

ISLAMABAD: While Pakistan fights a battle with India for securing the Geographical Indication (GI) tag for its Basmati rice in the European market, the concerned department of Ministry of Commerce (MoC) has been headless for more than 22 days, which may cause damage to the case.

According to insiders, Intellectual Property Organization (IPO) Chairman Mujeeb Ahmed, who being the technical expert in IPR, is leading Pakistan’s case against India’s application for an exclusive GI rights for Basmati in European Union (EU), completed his term early this month.

Although Adviser to PM on Commerce and Investment, Razak Dawood, has recommended extending Ahmed’s tenure, given that the next few months are reportedly crucial for the case in the EU, the concerned ministries are yet to come to make a final decision in this regard.

Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) former vice president, Taufiq Ahmed Khan, while talking to this scribe, claimed that any disturbance in the half cooked process of the Basmati case would be harmful for the country.

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“The IPO chairman successfully led the entire process of fighting the case in the EU besides, completing the first ever and long awaited GI legislation of the country. His absence at a time when India and Pakistan are actively in talks for the resolution of a major trade-related dispute may damage the case and ultimately the country’s economy,” he said.

According to sources, consultants and technical experts of both India and Pakistan are currently negotiating over a task given by EU for amicable resolution of the case.

Though the initial time period has expired without any breakthrough, the two countries, as per sources, have been given additional time till September 2021 to talk and settle the issue of exclusive rights via GI tag to market Basmati rice in the EU.

As per an official at the Ministry of Commerce, in case of deadlock on the issue, the matter may be referred to the International Court of Justice. Both the countries have hired international consulting firms to fight the case in the EU.

“Since the appointment of a new IPO chairman with required expertise in the relevant field may take time, we suggest the government to extend the tenure of existing chairman to avoid any disturbance in the important case,” the REAP member said, adding that any lack of seriousness on the part of relevant officials could damage the case of the country.

It may be recalled here that Pakistan has registered Basmati as GI product after approval of the GI Law of the country. It had registered its GI for basmati rice in 2020 after India had falsely claimed its produce of basmati rice to be original in an attempt to hinder Pakistan’s trade in the EU.

The Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) was given the task of registering all the merchant profiles and trade routes and with the Intellectual Property Organisation (IPO).

In September 2020, India had applied for an exclusive GI tag for Basmati rice in the EU. The EU had approved India’s application in its official journal, and then claimed basmati rice as an Indian origin product, even though the same rice is produced in Pakistan on a large scale.

India, to support its claim of exclusivity, had referred to various reports and dictionaries to show that the basmati rice is of Indian origin and conveniently left out the part that the same rice is widely produced in Pakistan.

 

 

 

 

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Ghulam Abbas
The writer is a member of the staff at the Islamabad Bureau. He can be reached at [email protected]

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