The government has decided to seek parliament’s approval for the trade dispute resolution law to revamp the trade dispute mechanism in a bid to address complaints of the business community.

In a meeting held on August 31, the Commerce Division told the cabinet that as Pakistan embarked on trade liberalisation, the probability of trade disputes would arise between the parties involved.

If such disputes were left unsupervised and unguided, they could lead to serious conflicts between governments in addition to damaging private sector’s business interests, the Commerce Division said.

Moreover, the absence of a proper trade dispute resolution mechanism in Pakistan is adversely affecting the country’s ranking on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index.

In order to overcome the problem, a dedicated government body, having legal mandate to resolve international trade disputes, was approved by the cabinet under the Strategic Trade Policy Framework (STPF).

The Trade Dispute Resolution Organisation (TDRO) was established as an attached department of the Ministry of Commerce.

It is a platform which helps prevent the detrimental effects of unresolved international trade conflicts and mitigate the imbalances between stronger and weaker players by settling their disputes in line with the rules.

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The establishment of TDRO was followed by two-pronged awareness campaigns at the local and international levels. Domestic trade organisations raised awareness in the country and Pakistan’s foreign trade missions played their part in spreading the knowledge globally.

The awareness campaigns fuelled massive interest from the business community and the services restored the confidence of traders with regard to dispute resolution.

Earlier, all the complaints were processed at the TDRO, however, owing to the lack of legal cover, only a few could be resolved successfully through conciliation and mediation while the rest were pursued vigorously for their early disposal.

The TDRO organised nine seminars in various cities in collaboration with the respective chambers of commerce or trade associations to discuss the subject.

Following extensive consultations, work on drafting the trade dispute resolution law kicked off but the law is still in a draft form as it has not been presented to parliament for approval.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, being the minister in charge, had desired that contents of the proposed legislation should be placed before the Cabinet Committee on Legislative Cases (CCLC).

The, in principle, approval of the federal cabinet for the draft act was sought.

The cabinet considered a summary titled “Trade Dispute Resolution Organisation (TDRO) Act 2021”, submitted by the Commerce Division, and approved it.

After approval of the cabinet, the government would table the act before parliament.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 8th, 2021.

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