Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Pakistan protests over EU move on Basmati

"By Masood Anwar

KARACHI: Pakistan has strongly protested against the exclusion of Super Basmati variety from the draft proposals prepared by the Cereal Experts Committee (CEC) of the European Union (EU) and warned it will approach the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Pakistan has also expressed disagreement over the time set for implementing the new policy from the beginning of new calendar year. Instead, Pakistan has proposed to the EU to implement the new measures from the start of new marketing year in EU, which is September.

"It is pointed out that Super Basmati accounts for more than 80 per cent of the Basmati exports from Pakistan to Europe, and by excluding it from this entitlement without any technical or economic justification, the Commission would be acting in an arbitrary and unjust manner to impose totally unwarranted restrictions on trade from Pakistan," Suleman Ghani, Pakistan’s Economic Minister in Brussels said in a letter to the CEC.

"Such a move, if it unfortunately goes through, would surely invite a reaction from Pakistan, including the possibility of recourse to the WTO and bilateral trade measures," the minister warned in his letter.

Pakistan has also aired concern over the new definition of Basmati rice derived by the CEC and urged to substitute the words "pure-line" or "true-line" by the words "historic land-based varieties".

Even the Grain and Feed Trade Association of the UK, which discussed the guidelines on Basmati, used the words "historic land-based varieties", the economic minister said.

Pakistan has also expressed displeasure over the use of DNA analysis as "control mechanism", saying "we are not clear about the accuracy of DNA testing benchmark in the UK".

"We have shown our willingness to agree to this testing provided Pakistan is first given the opportunity of checking if the DNA test is accurate and objective in its design," the letter said.

Any change in the policy should be applied after the consent of all trading partners and completion of due process, the letter added.

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