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Pakistan urged to comply with WTO standards

August 21, 2007

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ISLAMABAD, Aug 20: The government has decided to comply with the standards demanded by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to survive in the export market. Official sources told Dawn on Monday that the WTO had been insisting that Pakistan’s manufacturers, exporters and entrepreneurs should meet the internationally acceptable standards, measurements and calibration in its foreign trade, commerce and industrial dealings.

There is a long list of standards demanded by different agencies in various sectors. The WTO wants Islamabad to comply with the requirements like Technical Barrier to Trade (TBT), including “metrology”, standards, testing and quality (MSTQ), sanitary and phyto sanitary (SPS), scientific metrology and legal metrology (weights & measures) to achieve the highest level of accuracy in measurement and calibration as obligatory requirements of the International Standard Organisation (ISO).

It has also asked Pakistan to enter into agreements on mutual recognition (MR) with other countries as recommended by the Bureau of International Weights and Measures (BIPR), Organisation of Legal Metrology (OIML), International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC), Asia Pacific Laboratories Accreditation Cooperation (APLAC) and International Accreditation Federation (IAF).

For achieving various international standards, the government has decided to go for the balancing, modernisation and revamping (BMR) of National Physical and Standards Laboratory (NPSL), Islamabad, for which Rs2 billion has been allocated for upgradation and strengthening of metrology base in Pakistan.

As a first step, the NPSL needs primary standards to essentially take part in international key comparison arranged by BIPM, which are set by the WTO for which the state-of-the-art equipment will be procured. This equipment will help establish primary standards of measures in chemical, physical, industrial and legal metrology.

After attaining the BMR, the NPSL will meet the demands of the potential customers from industrial trade, research development organisations for calibration, measurements, test and analysis.

The NPSL is the only organisation in the country responsible for maintenance and dissemination of national primary standards. Practically, limited facilities are available within the country. Some of the defence organisations are carrying out calibration work without going for establishing ‘traceability expression’ and they have to refer NPSL for their reference/traceability hierarchy due to their classified nature.

At present there is no mechanism of coordination among the newly emerging private sector laboratories. However, some sort of coordination could be visualised in near future as far as accreditation of laboratories and management of inter-laboratory comparison is concerned.

The government approved the establishments of NPSL in 1974 through an act of parliament, which started functioning in 1983 at its present premises in Islamabad. The laboratory was supposed to extend and refine its capabilities with time in accordance with requirements of the country. But unfortunately, sources said, it was very slow and NPSL could not prove its worth even after years. It was not in a position to provide the needful services to industry and other users in Pakistan.

With the allocation of new funding, the NPSL is expected to enhance about 10 to 15 per cent of existing test and calibration facilities and improvement of environment conditions in the laboratory to some extent.

The additional services by virtue of new facilities were being rendered to the industries and exporters. However, ranges and accuracy of most of the existing physical parameters and testing areas still needed to be increased and improved further.