Pakistan has sought US support to help protect its intellectual property rights and around 100 items that it wants to protect


Oct 25 - 31, 2004





It is high time the government and the people realize the effects and consequences of the impending WTO implementation. The potential gainers and losers both need to start preparing for the time is near and the regulations tricky.

At a time when the world is upbeat about the implementation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement and introduction of revolutionary changes in international trade as its consequence, it is important for Pakistan to gauge its independent standing in this economic shift. Do we, as a nation realize what globalization and WTO are? What are its rules and regulations and how it is going to affect Pakistan's trade and industry? Does it offer any benefits or is it a threat to our economic standing? And above all are we in a position to protect our interests or get relief from competent courts of law in case we think we have been treated in a discriminatory manner in a particular case?

Pakistan, like all other developing countries, is in the process of implementing the provisions of WTO. As a result, its trade and industrial sectors are undergoing radical changes in compliance with GATT/WTO rules and regulations. Where these rules give industries and business enterprises certain rights, they also place some obligations on them. Unfortunately there has not been enough development in Pakistan to raise awareness and understanding about WTO. With not much time now remaining for the WTO (till January 2005) to be fully effective, there is an urgent need for all the stakeholders, those involved with international trade and industry in particular, to explore WTO's implications. Business leaders dealing in international trade believe WTO is the only international body dealing with the rules of trade between nations. At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world's trading nations. These documents provide the legal ground rules for international commerce. They are essentially contracts, binding governments to keep their trade policies within agreed limits. Although WTO became operational on January 1, 1995, its trading system is half a century older. Since 1948, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) has provided the rules for the system. In short, WTO and its agreements now cover trade in services, and in traded inventions, creations and designs popularly known as intellectual property Pakistan agreed to join WTO in 1994, one of the benefits of which is the integration of the textile sector into General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATT). Looking at 2005, people mostly believe that the major impact of WTO on Pakistan would again be on the textile sector. However, WTO comprises several protocols and agreements focusing on various sectors and have different implications for different sectors and thus the impact might not just be limited to the textile sector. For example, a few subjects or agreements signed by the government mentioned below show which sectors will be the most affected:



1) Improved access to foreign markets (reduction/binding of tariffs, abolition of quotas)
2) Subsidies, countervailing and anti-dumping measures
3) Agreement on Textiles and Clothing
4) Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)
5) Trade-related Investment Measures (TRIMs)
6) Agreement on Agriculture

The year 2005 is crucial for Pakistan as the 5th ministerial conference to be held in Cancun, Mexico in Sept 2003, would be 'a round to end all rounds'.

Year 2005 is one of the important deadlines by which all negotiations should be finalized and most waivers granted to developing countries like Pakistan should expire. Thus the implication for Pakistan and other countries will be in several sectors and not just confined to the textile sector.

Pakistani pharmaceutical companies are also expected to suffer as WTO has envisaged special safeguards for Western, particularly the US pharmaceutical companies under TRIPS. As most of the research is being carried out in the developed world, the formulae of drugs will be patented and may raise public health-related issues in the developing world. However, Pakistani pharmaceutical industry is constantly raising its voice at various forums to win exemptions in this respect. The most easily understood effect on the local industry and Pakistan government is that of the WTO's push for an area free of customs duties and tariff protections. Pakistani tax authorities fear a major shortfall in revenue whereas the local industry confronts imminent closures in the face of ever-increasing costs of production.

Another interesting phenomenon under TRIPs is that of the Geographical Indications (GIs) related to different products and the idea will grow with the passage of time. Primarily, it is the extension of the trademark concept to a country level. For example Champagne and Whisky are associated to France which bars non-French companies from selling wines as Champagne.

Against this backdrop, Pakistan has sought US support to help protect its intellectual property rights and around 100 items that it wants to protect from trade liberalization on the pretext of national and geographical identification (GI). The matter gains prime importance due to the fact that India and Pakistan jointly share the identification of products like Basmati rice and Alphanso mango and the one who takes the lead in registering the products will enjoy their exclusive selling rights.