—Pakistan, China likely to discuss development of SEZs, new industrial zones
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and China are involved in extensive contacts to make Prime Minister Imran Khan’s three-day visit to Beijing a success and around half a dozen delegations from Beijing have been received in Islamabad to further build on the partnership between two key partners in the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI).
PM Khan is likely to leave for Beijing on November 5 and would return on November 8.
The prime minister would also attend the China International Import Expo, being held next month, which would provide an opportunity for the two sides to look into possibilities of expanding the export portfolio.
The visit is being closely monitored by regional and global players as Pakistan is a key player in the BRI – the Chinese plan to expand its outreach to the Middle East, Africa and beyond.
Since the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is flagship project of the BRI, the significance of Imran Khan’s visit has increased manifold. China would be the second visit of PM Khan.
Last month, the premier visited Saudi Arabia.
Sources in Islamabad and Beijing have informed Pakistan Today that the Chinese leadership was keen to expand the relationship with the new government in Pakistan after the recent general elections.
According to sources, Prime Minister Imran Khan had recently chaired a meeting to finalise the deliverables on the CPEC and an agenda had also been framed.
“The theme of the visit would expand cooperation in agriculture between the two countries and bringing social sector development and poverty alleviation under the scope of the Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) of CPEC. In order to outline the deliverables and have an agenda framed for the upcoming visit, the prime minister has formed a working group led by Minister for Planning and Development Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar. Relevant ministers and federal secretaries are also part of the group,” the sources said.
Pakistan and China may sign a legal framework agreement under the CPEC to bring investment in the agriculture sector and for exporting surplus produce to feed the growing Chinese population.
Another source in the ministry of planning said that irrespective of the speculations being made by the US and western media, prime minister’s visit to Beijing would further bolster the implementation on CPEC projects that had slowed down over the past several months owing to the political transition in Pakistan.
“Though there may not be too many MoUs and agreements, the two sides are likely to take up cooperation to set into motion the special economic zones (SEZs) and new industrial zones. Progress on Rashakai SEZ is also expected,” the official added.
While Islamabad is involved in hectic preparations for the upcoming visit, Beijing too is pulling its socks. A Chinese delegation led by Chinese Vice Minister for Agriculture and Rural Affairs MA Aiguo visited Pakistan to explore areas of mutual interest in the agriculture sector.
The delegation met with Planning Minister Khusro Bakhtiar on Monday and was given an overview of Pakistan’s agriculture sector that employed 45 per cent of manpower, contributed about 24 per cent to GDP, 20 per cent to total exports and provided livelihood to 64 per cent of the country’s rural population, a statement said.
Khusro suggested to the delegation that agricultural cooperation between the two countries needed to focus on the vertical increase in productivity of the existing crops, transfer of knowledge and technologies, seed and plant protection, as well as disease control, value addition and marketing of agri-products including dairy, livestock, and fisheries.
He was of the opinion that joint ventures in value addition, cold chain management for fruits and vegetables, marketing and branding would help Pakistan overcome the past weaknesses and increase its farm products’ export to China and other countries.
Aiguo was of the view that agricultural cooperation would set a new and important direction that would focus on areas and the level of cooperation, besides finalization of specific plans. He added that China was ready to share its expertise and successful agriculture models with Pakistan.
Both sides agreed to broaden agricultural cooperation by adopting a comprehensive approach to enhance communication and implementation to tap potentials of the agriculture sector in Pakistan.
Moreover, the two sides agreed to sign a memorandum of understanding on the desire of Prime Minister Khan for creation of a joint working group for social sector development.
Pakistan expects China to share its experience in poverty reduction through small-scale businesses and social sector development and provide grants and concessional loans for low-cost housing, education and health facilities.
The two sides also agreed to continue the development of nine special economic zones in the four provinces, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and the tribal regions.
The framework agreement would enable the two sides to go into details of the relocation of Chinese industries to these SEZs and how Pakistan’s domestic industry could benefit from the Chinese relocation, instead of crippling it as feared by leading businessmen.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government wants at least four SEZs to enter the ground-breaking phase over the next three to four months.
Moreover, a senior delegation of the Communist Party of China (CPC) headed by Chinese Minister for International Development Song Tao also visited Islamabad and held meetings with the Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and PTI Secretary General Arshad Dad.
The objective of the visit was to develop the ties between both the ruling parties in the two countries.