Pakistan has approved 10 agro and non-agro products for Geographical Indication (GI) registration in a bid to claim them as its brands in the international market.
The move comes following India's attempt to label Basmati rice as its exclusive brand in the European Union market.
The process of GI registration for the 10 Pakistani products has begun after the cabinet gave its go-ahead last month.
The Commerce Division told the cabinet in a meeting held in April that GI was like intellectual property rights (IPRs), which was assigned to a product originating from a specific area whose quality or reputation was attributable to its place of origin.
Pakistan enacted the Geographical Indications (Registration and Protection) Act 2020 in March 2020 to ensure the registration and effective protection of the country’s products. The government of Pakistan has already initiated the GI registration of its products.
In this connection, Basmati rice was registered on January 21, 2021 whereas the process for giving GI protection to Pink Rock Salt commenced on February 22, 2021.
A significant number of other products of Pakistan can also be protected under the GI Act 2020. GI will serve as a potential economic tool to promote and enhance national and international trade by attracting global demand and premium prices for Pakistan's products.
The Ministry of Commerce has embarked on a drive to identify the public bodies to be authorised by the federal government for the GI registration of Pakistan's products under Section 11(2) of the GI Act 2020 so that the registration process could be initiated by the respective stakeholders/ agencies.
The role of registering bodies is important as the responsibility to prepare the Book of Specifications rests with them.
The book is an essential document that contains the name and description of a GI bearing product, its principal characteristics, methods to obtain the product, definition of geographical area (mapping), link between the product and geographical environment, and evidence that the product originated from the defined geographical area.
The agricultural and nonagricultural products which the Ministry of Commerce has proposed for GI registration in the first phase include Chaunsa Mango, Sindhri Mango, Kinnow, Hunza Ruby, Swat Emerald, Kashmir Tourmaline, Skardu Topaz, Skardu Aquamarine, Peridot Stone and Peridot Valley.
The ministry has picked Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) and Pakistan Minerals Development Corporation (PMDC) for registering these products.
Once the public bodies are authorised and notified as registrants, they will prepare the Book of Specifications and apply for the registration of GI-bearing products with the Intellectual Property Organisation Pakistan (IPO Pakistan).
The Ministry of Commerce tabled a proposal in last month's cabinet meeting where it sought approval for registering these products as brands of Pakistan.
Cabinet members appreciated the steps taken to protect the agro and non-agro products of Pakistan in the international market. However, they noted that bureaucratic hurdles were delaying efforts aimed at safeguarding national interests.
The cabinet members pointed out that there were several trade officers working in Pakistani missions in different countries including the EU. However, they never identified the threat posed by India to Pakistan's Basmati rice.
They asked the Commerce Division to take measures to protect Pakistani products in the international market. These products are a major source of exports from Pakistan to the global market.
Pakistan has already been too late in the GI registration of its products. By the end of 2020, the country had not registered any product as its exclusive brand.
The bureaucracy moved only after India claimed Basmati rice as its brand in the European market.