BEIJING: The Covid-19 pandemic has severely disturbed global trade and China-Pakistan trade cooperation has also suffered from its impact.
However, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing expressed complete confidence in the future of bilateral trade cooperation, especially because of the China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement Phase-II (CPFTA Phase-II).
During an interview with the China-Economic Net, the ambassador spoke on the issue of mutual support between Pakistan and China during the pandemic, progress on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), business and trade cooperation and joint efforts to combat locust swarms.
“The cooperation between China and Pakistan in the fight against Covid-19 is a model of international cooperation. Our all-weather strategic and cooperative partnership is consolidated in addressing this common challenge.”
The CPFTA Phase-II took effect from January 1, 2020, following which the level of liberalisation between the two countries more than doubled, tariffs were reduced sharply and the proportion of the tariff line of mutual zero tariff products increased from 35% to 75%.
Under the CPFTA Phase-II, 90% of China’s imports from Pakistan will enjoy duty-free treatment, while Pakistan will enjoy zero tariff on 67% of its trade volume.
Yao said, “This pandemic will pass and the world economy and global trade will recover. The huge market demand accumulated during the pandemic will be fully released and bilateral trade will rebound strongly.”
To a question about how CPEC supported livelihood of Pakistani people and opening to third party, he replied that CPEC was a major and pilot project of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
“It has achieved fruitful results in development of Gwadar Port, energy, infrastructure and Special Economic Zones (SEZs) over the past six years.”
According to incomplete statistics, the number of Pakistanis directly employed by CPEC projects reached over 75,000. Since early this year, both sides have worked closely to mitigate the challenge of Covid-19 outbreak to the sustainable development of CPEC.
Regarding China’s efforts for Pakistan’s debt relief, he said that over the years, China had carried out financial cooperation with developing countries based on the principle of equal-footed consultation, mutual benefit and common development.
“Our goal is to help these countries to develop their economies and work for implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. China never presses countries in difficulties for debt payment,” he said. Due to the spreading pandemic, developing countries, especially low-income countries, are facing greater challenges.
China upholds the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind and follows the right approach to justice and interests. It stands together with the people of developing countries. China has actively participated in international cooperation on debt relief.
The envoy said China was ready to communicate and coordinate with Pakistan via bilateral channel, and to help Pakistan concentrate its resources to fight the epidemic and stabilise the economy.
Talking about cooperation on socio-economic development, he said Pakistan and China had a tradition of mutual understanding and mutual support. In past years, China had assisted Pakistan in building infrastructure projects such as Karakoram Highway, Pakistan Sports Centre, China-Pakistan Friendship Centre and Gwadar Faquer School. Regarding progress on the construction of SEZs, he said industrial development was essential to Pakistan’s self-relied development and improvement of balance of payments.
Nowadays, the global industrial structure was facing new adjustments. Some Chinese companies are seeking to invest or relocating related industries in other regions.
“China and Pakistan have worked together to expand industrial cooperation as the main focus of CPEC in the next stage,” he added.
There was some progress after years of hard work of both sides. For example, the franchise agreement for the Rashakai SEZ was signed in April 2019, which was witnessed by leaders of both countries.
China Road and Bridge Corporation then conducted construction drawing design, funding and tender invitation. In December 2019, the Pakistani side started supporting work for peripheral roads, water and electricity supply and the Chinese side started setting up the makeshift camp.
So far, all relevant work has moved forward steadily despite the challenge of Covid-19. Many Chinese companies had expressed interest in making investment in the SEZ.
Allama Iqbal SEZ is moving even faster. Eleven Chinese enterprises had entered this SEZ, including Times Ceramic, Deli Household Glass Co and Health Capsule, which covered a wide range of industries, such as manufacturing, chemical engineering and smelting.
China and Pakistan also maintained close communication for the development of Dhabeji SEZ.
“I firmly believe that with improvement of business environment and more preferential policies put in place in Pakistan, China-Pakistan industrial cooperation will be blessed with a bright future,” he said.
About China’s plan to help Pakistan to get rid of the locust crisis, he said, “We noted that the locust plague outbreak in Pakistan early this year has severely affected the country’s agricultural production and food security.”
In February, the Chinese government sent a team of locust experts to Pakistan when China was still in critical stage of fighting against Covid-19. The Chinese expert team held extensive field investigation in locusts-affected areas in Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab. They came up with an informative package of policy suggestion on comprehensive prevention and control for Pakistan.
During President Arif Alvi’s visit to China in March, Chinese President Xi Jinping told him that China would continue to provide support and assistance to Pakistan in the fight against locusts.
THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON THE CHINA ECONOMIC NET
Published in The Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2020.