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Pakistan challenges India on the trade front

Trade is one of the multiple domains in which Pakistan is facing challenges from India. REAP, with its decades long history of exporting basmati, along with the support of MOC is hopeful to win the case for Pakistan on the trade front.

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Pakistan has decided to challenge India as it has filed an application to the European Commission (EC) to be granted special rights on the use of “basmati” for its rice exports. India’s applications is to get  Geographical Indication (GI) tag-which links the product to a specific geographical area based on certain unique qualities in the product due to that area, as the place of its origin-for basmati rice.

The decision to challenge India’s application was reached upon during a meeting chaired by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce Mr Razak Dawood. Secretary Commerce, Chairman, Intellectual Pro­perty Organisation (IPO-Pakistan), representatives of Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) and the legal fraternity were also present in the meeting.

Mr. Dawood said that Pakistan will raise stern opposition to India’s application in the European Union and restrain India from obtaining exclusive GI tag of basmati rice. He assured the REAP representatives of all the support to address their concerns and ensured that their claim for basmati rice as GI will be protected.

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It was made clear by the REAP representatives that India’s claim as the place of origin of basmati rice is unreasonable as Pakistan is among the top five producer of basmati with an export history spanned over decades. REAP (created in 1988-89) started exports of rice from 1992, bringing the exports of $300 million in 1998-99 to a value of $2 billion in 2009-10. REAP is further collaborating with the government to increase the exports value to $5 billion in the next 5 years.

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The ‘notice of opposition’ has been filed by REAP, in the EC, marking the start of a 60 days period within which REAP has to come up with a ‘reason statement’ to prove grounds for its opposition to Indian application of exclusivity over the use of basmati as a tag. REAP has hired a firm named ABS & co. for legal assistance and representation purposes.

Mr Razak Dawood also confirmed that Ministry of Commerce (MOC), with the help of REAP, was able to cancel the registration of the trademark of “KERNAL” by an overseas company. He tweeted that this was an attempt to steal Pakistan’s intellectual property as the word is similar to Pakistan’s “SUPER KERNAL,” a premium quality rice.

Recently the Foreign Office of Pakistan has revealed shocking details, in a comprehensive dossier, of Indian interference to destabilize Pakistan. One of the domains in which India is targeting Pakistan in the trade domain, i.e. by practicing back door diplomacy to ensure not only that Pakistan stays on FATF grey list but to push it to the black list despite the fact that Pakistan has done landmark reforms to meet FATF requirements.

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The quality and aroma of Pakistan’s rice and its compliance with European Union’s (EU) food safety requirements has lead it to win the confidence of importers and a substantial market share making rice the second biggest export commodity of Pakistan after textiles. This put some serious dents on India’s decades old policy of confronting and isolating Pakistan at every front. Basmati is premium quality long-strand aromatic rice and if India succeeds on getting the GI tag-creating an impression that it only grows in India-of basmati for its exports, this will give a reputation boost to its products which may in turn be a loss of billions for Pakistan.

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A court case was filed in Sindh’s High Court, back in 2006-7, by some local producers to get domestic GI tag for basmati, REAP challenged this case claiming state ownership of the basmati brand. Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) of India became a party to the case as well which leaves Pakistan with documented evidence that India recognizes Pakistan to be a place where basmati is grown.

REAP, with its decades long history of exporting basmati, along with the support of MOC is hopeful to win the case for Pakistan on the trade front.

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