Senate body for following competitive, transparent process for recruitment of EDF officials

Pakistan’s IP ranking has improved from 119th in 2016 to 88th in 2023 in Global Innovation Index

ISLAMABAD   -   The Senate Standing Committee on Commerce on Thursday raised concerns about the recruitment of Export Development Fund (EDF) officials and stated that a competitive and transparent process should be followed for recruitment.

The second day of inaugural sessions of the Senate Standing Committee on Commerce was convened under Senator Anusha Rahman’s chairmanship at Parliament House Thursday. The sessions aimed to gather briefings on the operations and performance of the Ministry of Commerce and its affiliated bodies.

The session commenced with a briefing from the Director-General of the Intellectual Property Organization of Pakistan (IPO). The chairman expressed concern that, in the absence of the chairman, essential briefings cannot proceed smoothly, questioning the functioning in his absence due to official travel to Gilgit. The IPO’s functions were outlined, encompassing the registration of IP laws, enforcement of IP rights, coordination, promotion of IP education, research, and awareness. Additionally, it advises the government on IP-related policies.

The committee received updates on Pakistan’s accession to international IP treaties such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaty, Berne Convention on copyrights, Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the Marrakesh Treaty, facilitating access to published works for the visually impaired.

Senator Anusha Rahman inquired about IPO’s progress in facilitating Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) registration, noting concerns about the lengthy registration period of 18-24 months and accessibility issues for lawyers despite claims of digitalization. An online demonstration of the registration process was conducted, highlighting the registration of approximately 3000 cases through the online system, with plans for full digitalization within two years.

The committee was briefed that Pakistan’s IP ranking has improved from 119th in 2016 to 88th in 2023 in the Global Innovation Index. Compliance with IPR standards also improved as per the USTR Special 301 Report 2023, resulting in Pakistan being moved to the Watch List from the Priority Watch List.

The chairman also discussed in detail the recruitment challenges at IPO, expressing concerns over the large number of vacant positions which adversely affect organizational efficiency. The committee was informed that 136 seats are vacant due to legislative changes, with a directive to fill these positions within three months and provide progress reports.

During discussions on E-filing for patents, copyrights, and designs, Senator Anusha Rahman raised reservations over the slow process, citing concerns about data protection and advocating for efficient transactions through platforms like Pay Zen instead of MoUs for financial transactions.

The committee also received a briefing from the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP), highlighting the TDAP Act of 2013 and the composition of its board, including sector representatives. TDAP’s initiatives in international exhibitions and market diversification, such as the Look Africa plan and engagements with Saudi Arabia and China, were discussed.

Senator Rahman emphasized the promotion of pharmaceutical trade and support for women entrepreneurs and new market entrants. A seminar on export readiness and access to US markets, in collaboration with USAID in Lahore on January 30th, focused on promoting women entrepreneurship.

The chairman requested a list of companies participating in international exhibitions over the past year.

The committee was briefed by the Director General of Trade Organisations (DGTO) about the workings and operations of the organisation. DGTO informed that the primary function of the organisation is to regulate trade organisations and conduct elections of chambers. DGTO also grants renewals to trade organisations, which occur every 5 years.

Additionally, the committee analyzed the operations of the Export Development Fund (EDF). The executive director of EDF informed that a basic feature of EDF is to enhance exports and make investments in sectors that have the potential to increase the country’s export volume. EDF receives 0.25% from all exports and utilizes these funds to run its affairs and export promotion. The committee raised concerns about the recruitment of EDF officials and stated that a competitive and transparent process should be followed for recruitment. EDF explained that initially, EDF surrendered its funds to the Federal Consolidated Fund, but after an understanding with the Finance Ministry, EDF is now allowed to retain its funds in a public account. Last year, the revenue of EDF stood at 16 billion rupees. The committee suggested that EDF should create a vision and shortlist three to five key projects, focusing on achieving long-term economic results for the country.

Moreover, the committee raised concerns over the absence of the CEO of the Pakistan Horticulture Development and Export Company (PHDEC) since multiple years. Senator Anusha Rahman stated that human resources are a key factor that can affect organisational performance, and the PHDEC Board should have finalized the appointment of a CEO by now.

Furthermore, the committee was briefed by the chairman of the National Tariff Commission (NTC). The chairman of NTC informed that the primary function of NTC is to advise the government on tariff reforms and act as a safeguarding agent against companies or foreign exporters who dump their products at lower costs in the Pakistani market when the prices of those products are higher in their own countries.

These corrections address grammatical errors, improve sentence structure, and clarify some points for better readability and understanding. During the briefing by the National Tariff Commission on Tariff Board policies, it was highlighted that the board is chaired by the Minister of Commerce, with the chairman of FBR also serving as a member. The committee expressed concern that despite the involvement of key board members, the FBR has declined to accept the recommendations of the National Tariff Commission. They suggested that the national tariff policy structure should be formalized through a legal instrument, proposing its inclusion in tax and customs laws. Furthermore, they recommended arranging meetings with legal consultants to discuss this matter further.

The meeting was attended by Senator Sarmad Ali, Senator Amir Waliuddin Chisti, Senator Muhammad Tallal Badar and other senior officials of the Ministry of Commerce and attached departments were also in attendance. The committee adjourned to meet again on Friday.

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