ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Commerce told a Senate panel on Friday that the European Union has not given any preferential access to Indian basmati rice.

Replying to lawmakers’ questions during a meeting of the Senate Committee for Commerce, the ministry’s secretary said that at present, Pakistan was exporting more basmati rice to European markets than India.

Basmati rice is a shared production of India and Pakistan. In the recent past, it became a source of a contentious trade battle between the two nations after India applied for an exclusive trademark that would grant it sole ownership of the basmati title in the European Union.

The secretary, Sualeh Ahmed Farooqui, said the EU had yet to make any progress

Senate body criticises minister for absence from meetings

on the request while Australia has also rejected a similar request from India. Legal proceedings are still ongoing in the United States, he added.

The meeting of the parliamentary committee also criticised the persistent absence of Commerce Minister Naveed Qamar from meetings.

At the outset of the meeting, Senator Danesh Kumar said the minister was asked to appear for questions from senators. He later walked out of the meeting to register his protest.

The committee’s chairman, Senator Zeeshan Khanzada, said ministers should give importance to parliamentary committees and ensure their participation. Otherwise, the issue will be raised with the Senate chairman.

Senator Faisal Javed raised the issue of royalties to artists. He said Pakistani artists had the right to get a royalty for their art aired on government and private electronic media.

He complained that even the state-run PTV was not providing royalties to artists for streaming their old dramas and music.

The chairman of the Intellectual Property Organisation, an attached department of the commerce ministry, told the committee that a law was being drafted for the protection of artists’ rights.

He added that feedback has been sought from stakeholders on the draft which will be shared soon with the standing committee.

Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) Chief Executive Officer Zubair Motiwala briefed the committee on export diversification efforts and increasing exports to Africa.

He said TDAP wanted to promote the export of dates, pink salt, and mangoes which have now been registered under Geographical Indication (GI) tags.

Efforts are being made to increase the export of seafood as well, he added.

Briefing on the efforts to boost trade, the commerce secretary told the meeting that a grand exhibition was organised in Dubai while the private sector was being supported by the commerce ministry to participate in an exhibition held in Germany.

The committee was informed that 197 international trade fairs and 10 local trade fairs were organised during the last four years to promote exports.

Bushra Rehman of the Canada-Pakistan Chamber of Commerce infor­med the committee that Pakistan’s single-country exhibition would being held in North America in August. A total of 57 Pakistani companies will participate in this exhibition. The exhibition needed more support from the ministry and TDAP, she added.

The commerce secretary told the meeting that the production of dates has been greatly affected due to last year’s floods.

He said 300,000 tons of dates were exported annually, but this year only 5pc of them will be exported. The committee’s chairman said that the export capacity of the country should be prepared and provided to the committee in the next meeting by preparing a report on our current situation and comparison with different countries.

Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2023

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