National Assembly passes four Bills

ISLAMABAD – The National Assembly on Wednesday passed four bills including the Safeguard Measures (Amendment) Bill 2015, the Countervailing Duties Bill 2015, the Anti-Dumping Duties Bill 2015 and the National Tariff Commission Bill 2015.

The bills were moved by State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Shaikh Aftab Ahmad. The bills have already been passed by the Senate.The Safeguard Measures (Amendment) Bill 2015 says under the WTO agreement on safeguards, member countries can take safeguard measures, if it is established by the designated investigating authority through an investigation that there is sudden surge in imports and such imports have caused or is causing serious injury to the domestic industry producing like or directly competitive product in importing country.

In order to provide such protection to the domestic industry, the government promulgated the Safeguard Measures Ordinance 2002. The objectives of the bill included to prescribe the procedure for investigations and to specify the actions that the National Tariff Commission can take to counter the effects of surge in imports of any products into Pakistan and to provide for alternative arrangement in contingencies for smoothly carrying out investigations and making determinations.

Statements of objects and reasons of the Countervailing Duties Bill 2015 says under the WTO Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (ASCM), member countries are allowed to protect their domestic industry from injurious effect of subsided imports.As being the member of WTO, the government promulgated the Countervailing Duties Ordinance 2001 (CVD Ordinance) in accordance with ASCM.

The CVD Ordinance authorises the National Tariff Commission to investigate and impose countervailing duties on products, if it is determined that these products are being subsidised and these subsidised imports have caused or are causing material injury or threaten to cause material injury to the domestic industry producing like products.

Serious challenges have been faced by the National Tariff Commission on account of certain ambiguity in the Countervailing Duties Ordinance 2001, involving litigation in higher courts, which has been creating embarrassing situation or Pakistan at the WTO forum on the other.

The Countervailing Duties Ordinance 2015 gives effect in Pakistan to the WTO Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing duties.The ordinance empowers the National Tariff Commission to process an application against alleged subsidizing of a product and to impose appropriate countervailing duties.

Statement and objects and reasons of the Anti-Dumping Duties Bill 2015 says that Pakistan has liberalised its trade particularly over the recent past. Being one of the founding members of GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) in 1947 and the WTO in 1995, Pakistan is a natural partner in the new international trade regime.

While the liberal trade offers barrier-free access to international markets, it also poses competitive challenges to industries of developing countries. Besides, unhindered and free trade may entail unfair trade practices such as dumping. Realising that Pakistan’s domestic industry may also face similar situations, the government promulgated a law (the Anti-Dumping Duties Ordinance 2000), which provides remedy against dumping and its injurious effects on domestic industry.

The main objectives of the bill are to provide for multilaterally agreed framework of rules governing actions against injurious dumping,to provide for alternate arrangement in contingencies for smoothly carrying out investigations and making determinations and to provide for effective appellate forum to decide on petitions relating to initiation of the investigations as well as final determinations.

The statement of objects and reasons says that the National Tariff Commission(NTC), a national organisation set up under the National Tariff Commission Act 1990 (VI of 1990) is responsible for administering trade defence laws with regard to Pakistan’s international treaty obligations under the WTO including the agreements on anti-dumping duties, subsidies and countervailing measures and safeguards. The NTCis also meant to function as a think tank for the government on matters relating to competitiveness of the industry.

Of late, serious challenges have been faced by the government on account of certain loopholes in composition and operation of the NTC involving litigation in higher courts, which has been hindering the smooth functioning of the organisation on one hand and has created embarrassing situation for Pakistan at the WTO forum on the other.

The main objective of establishing the National Tariff Commission through the repealed act are to minimise litigation by addressing legal loopholes in the relevant legal framework; expand the membership of the NTC from three members to five members with a view to provide for uninterrupted quorum for decision making; to provide for benefiting from the technical expertise of the NTC officers by providing to a certain extent for their employment as member; to specify the qualification of the members with a view to have multidisciplinary technical expertise required for sound decision making; to provide for alternative arrangements in contingencies for smoothly carrying out investigations and making determinations and to provide for effective appellate forum to decide on petitions relating to initiation of investigations as well as final determination.

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