Malik M Ashraf
INDIA has all along, since partition, been making strenuous efforts to harm strategic, political and economic interests of Pakistan through covert and overt actions besides launching a sustained campaign to tarnish its image at the global level. It never lets go any opportunity to follow the course steeped in enmity towards Pakistan.
India is a competitor of Pakistan in the EU market in regards to exports, particularly the export of rice to the countries of the Union. To undermine rice exports of Pakistan to EU India claimed geographical indication tag for the brand of basmati rice that it exported to them and was successful in her attempt. It has been blocking attempts by Pakistan to attain this tag claiming that basmati rice had originated in India and as such only India had the right to geographical indication tag.
It was almost accepted as fait accompli by the Pakistan exporters and the successive governments that never made any serious attempt to mount a challenge to the false Indian contention. It is, however, heartening to note that Pakistan Rice Export Association in collaboration with Ministry of Investment, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other stakeholders have won the case against India in regards to geographical indication tag.
They were able to establish the fact that basmati is grown all over Pakistan particularly in the provinces of Punjab and Sindh and only it had the right to geographical identification tag in this regard. It is indeed a significant step forward. The winning of this tag will ensure that the rice imported from Pakistan is recognized as Pakistani by the importing countries of EU and fetches higher price as the strain known as basmati is considered superior to all other varieties of rice.
This achievement will also help Pakistan improve its export image and upgrade the number of items it can export each year and obtain correct price for them. This triumph also shows Pakistan is quite capable of competing against its regional competitors as far as exports go. The success in winning the geographical identification tag for basmati proves beyond an iota of doubt the virtues of sustained and coordinated efforts for protecting commercial and business interests of the country. Similar efforts are also needed to be made in other export domains with a view to diversifying our export destinations. Due credit also goes to the PTI government for taking up this important matter, which had been ignored by previous governments for too long. Too often they were not ready to do this. The result has been a loss for the country on many fronts. Hopefully those losses will cease to accrue from now onwards.
The geographical indication tag is an important recognition of where a particular product has originated from and also helps other nations in recognizing from which country particular items can be brought in or exported. Basmati rice has gained recognition around the world because of its quality and the particular kind of cooked product that it produces. The tag and the registration are therefore excellent news, given that it shows Pakistan is not many steps behind India as far as the export of rice goes.
The EU is Pakistan’s biggest trade partner and a huge market for Pakistani rice and textiles. It has given GSP Plus status to Pakistan which allows country’s imports into the EU countries in line with the fixed quota without open competition with other countries of the world. EU Ambassador Androulla Kaminara while addressing the 4th Women Chamber of Commerce meeting organized by the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce & Industry last Wednesday revealed that since 2014, Pakistan’s exports to EU have gone up to $7.5 billion or 34 percent of the total country’s exports on per annum basis. Other major trade partners are USA accounting for 33% Pakistani exports followed by China with 8%.
While the government is banking on revival of the economy through export-led growth, there is an imperative need for all the export-oriented industries and the government to evaluate the export potential of the country and finding new markets for the products which are competitive in the international market. The country needs a greater focus on economic diplomacy. Our missions abroad can play a vital role in this regard by identifying markets for our goods and facilitating contacts between the exporters from Pakistan and importers in the countries of their accreditation. Participation in international trade fairs and holding solo exhibitions of the Pakistani products in the countries with potential market for them can also help in boosting exports. There is also the need to take the representatives of the export industries on board to formulate export policies as they are the people who have a better knowledge of the world markets and can help the government in removing the bottlenecks in the enhancement of Pakistani exports. Above all for remaining competitive in the international market and finding new markets the emphasis must be on the export of value-added and high-tech products.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected Pakistan’s GDP growth rate at 1.5 percent for the current fiscal year 2020-21 compared to negative 0.4 percent for the previous fiscal year 2019-20. However the PTI government has envisaged GDP growth rate target of 2.1 percent for the current fiscal 2020-21 with the expectation that the recovery of economic activities will help achieve the growth trajectory in the aftermath of overcoming COVID-19 pandemic. Though there is a discrepancy in the two projections but it nonetheless corroborates the government claims that the economic has been put in the revival mode as a result of the policy initiatives taken by it.
— The Islamabad-based writer is former Director Administration, Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation.