ISLAMABAD                -              A parliamentary panel has decided to finalise ‘The Geographical Indications (Registration & Protection) Bill, 2019’ next week that would protect indigenous products and promote them worldwide as ‘made in Pakistan’ products as well as prevent Pakistani products from being usurped.

Senate Standing Committee on Commerce and Textile Industry in its meeting extensively discussed The Geographical Indications (Registration & Protection) Bill, 2019 introduced in the Senate by government.

Chairman Committee Senator Mirza Muhammad Afridi observed that as early as March 2018 when this Committee was constituted the matter of having Geographical Indications law in Pakistan was stressed upon time and again.

Geographical Indicators identify the products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or reputation attributable to their place of origin and these are generally agricultural, traditional or manufactured products. These are essential to protect indigenous products and promote them worldwide as ‘made in Pakistan’ products as well as prevent Pakistani products from being usurped.

The list of products identified in the law includes Khewra Salt, Basmati Rice, Kohat Shawl, Hunza Rubbi, Skardu Topaz, Multan Camel Skin Art, Patuki Floriculture, Mansehra Tea, Sahiwal Cattle, Truck Art, Wazirabad Cutlery Work, Sindhi Topi, Sialkot Sports Goods, Hala Coloured Pottery, Kashmir Pashmina, among many others  prospective GIs.

Due to the absence of GI legislation, international brands continue selling Pakistan-origin goods, depriving the country to get premium on its GIs in international market.

The bill identifies the products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or reputation attributable to their place of origin.

These are generally traditional products that have gained a reputation in the local, national or international market due to their specific unique qualities.

The draft aims to recognise and protect these products through legislation allowing the community of producers to get a fair value of their commodities while preserving their unique identity.

The Committee decided to review the bill in detail and finalise it in the next meeting which will be held next week.

Leader of the House in the Senate Senator Shibli Faraz remarked that this is one of those things that positively affects Pakistan and it is beyond comprehension as to why it took so long for Pakistan to come up with a legislation on geographical instructions.

Mujeeb Ahmed Khan, Chairman IPO Pakistan, briefed the Committee that the delays were mainly procedural and the work on the latest draft initiated in 2016 and was approved by Cabinet in August 2019 and subsequently laid in Senate this month.

The Committee also reviewed the budgetary allocation of the ministry and its utilisation for the financial year 2019-20. It was told that the total budget of the ministry is around Rs11,080 million for the fiscal year 2019-20 in comparison to Rs4,912 million in 2018-19.

Export Development Fund has an allocation of Rs2,119 million (19%), Strategic Trade Policy Framework has Rs5,000 million (45%), Main secretariat/trade missions/attached departments have budget of Rs3,961 million (36%) while the expenditure till 31 December, 2019 has been recorded at Rs1,853.5 million.a