A tussle has begun between the Ministry of Science & Technology (MoST) and manufacturers of vehicles that the auto industry has opposed framing local standards for vehicles being produced in the country.
While S&T Minister Fawad Chauhdry had specified three months to Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) and auto sector stakeholders to frame a uniform “automobile standard” in the country. the manufacturers have conflicting the move, saying that the government should adopt international standards instead of formulating a new one.
PSQCA organized a meeting with the representatives of Pakistan Automotive Manufacturers Association (PAMA) and Pakistan Automobiles Dealers Association (PADA) in view of new auto standards. The meeting was chaired by Fawad Chaudhry and attended by officials of Engineering Development of Pakistan (EDB), MoST and PSQCA.
Fawad Chauhdry had expressed concerns over the manufacturing of sub-standard vehicles in Pakistan during the meeting by saying that there were “no checks on the quality and safety of vehicles in the country because standards were not being followed”.
He stressed the need for standardization and regulations on automobiles in Pakistan and called for developing and applying a uniform “automobile standard” across the country.
He emphasized that PSQCA, being a national body, shall frame the standards based on regional and international research, through various technical committees/national standards committees, consisting of relevant stakeholders i.e. manufacturers, academia and consumers.
Minister directed PSQCA to expedite the standardization process that “once these standards are regulated and implemented, they will bring an end not only to sub-standard vehicles being manufactured in Pakistan, but will also ensure a strict check on vehicles being imported into the country”.
Earlier, the minister had informed the meeting regarding his plan to develop state-of-the-art vehicle testing facilities in collaboration with the private sector. He also directed PSQCA and MoST to prepare expression of interest for automobile testing labs on a public-private partnership basis and asked the industries to extend their help in this national cause.
PAMA opined that the process would place a new burden on manufacturers. While the manufacturers were ready to implement government regulations and standardization in the automobile industry.
PAMA Director General Abdul Waheed said after attending the meeting that “It is imperative for Pakistan to adopt European Standard ‘WP29’ because the local standards, without recognizing the international norms/regulations, will roll back the existing content level and will make them techno-economically unviable,”
He further said that “Adoption of WP29 is the only way to gain global recognition of Pakistani products that they are made in compliance with European standards; hence the government needs to deliver sustainable quality conformance and upgrade PSQCA testing facilities to supplement support to the national economy, which to date PSQCA has failed to build.”
He said in case local standard making was followed without ensuring mutual recognition with WP29 signatory countries, and if any government agency was unable to perform compliance testing locally, the local manufacturers would have to check compliance with overseas standards.
He informed that the certification will be impossible due to higher testing charges and low volumes. Furthermore, it would put pressure on foreign currency reserves, as cost of local products would increase further, which would ultimately reduce the government’s revenue.
It is relevant to mention that the Engineering Development Board (EDB) had already given a detailed briefing to the cabinet about government progress on adopting the WP29 standards. According to an EDB official, that cabinet has approved the accession plan of European automotive regulations i.e. WP-29 agreement. Pakistan is expected to get its membership by the end of this year.