Yasir Habib Khan,
A watershed moment arrives on May 21 when Pakistan and China celebrate their 69th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations, weathering all crises especially COVID-19. Chinese ambassador Yao Jing, in an interview to The Nation said that recently, G20 members adopted a debt service suspension initiative for the poorest countries. “China has supported Pakistan for its inclusion in the initiative. China is ready to communicate and coordinate with Pakistan via the bilateral channel, and to help Pakistan to concentrate resources to fight against the epidemic and stabilise the economy,” he stated. Meanwhile, there are zero infections in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects due to strict measures taken by both sides. The Chinese companies have not withdrawn themselves nor did they lay-off any local staff. Moreover, with a view to stimulate the trade and investment connection between China and Pakistan, Chinese enterprises as well as other foreign investors will invest in Pakistan. The China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement (CPFTA) Phase-II has taken effect from January 1, 2020; the level of liberalisation between the two countries increased by more than double. Tariffs have been reduced sharply, the proportion of the tariff line of mutual zero tariff products increased from 35 percent to 75 percent. Under CPFTA Phase-II, 90 percent of China’s imports from Pakistan will enjoy duty-free treatment, while Pakistan will enjoy zero tariffs on 67 percent of its trade volume. Duty-free products include cotton yarn, textiles, nuts and household accessories. China will also include the advantageous exports of Pakistan such as leather, clothing, shoes, hats, aquatic products and so on. That will give a huge boost to the Pakistan’s export to China. In a display of confidence, Ambassador Yao Jing, said that CPEC projects will give a fresh impetus to Pakistan’s economy and help stabilise its financial condition in the midst of COVID-19. On China-Pakistan relations and the cooperation between China and Pakistan in the fight against COVID-19, he said that China is deeply touched by the firm support it received from Pakistan in its effort to curb the epidemic. President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan sent letters of solidarity to President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang respectively. President Arif Alvi paid a special visit to China in March this year. Prime Minister Imran Khan made a phone call to President Xi Jinping to express his support for China. Foreign Minister Qureshi held two telephone conversations with the State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The National Assembly and the Senate of Pakistan respectively passed resolutions to support China’s fight against COVID-19. Meanwhile, Pakistan has tried its best to mobilise anti-epidemic materials nationwide to support China. In return, after COVID-19 broke out in Pakistan, China rushed for assistance. The Chinese central and local governments, the military, enterprises, the Red Cross Society of China, and the civil society continued to provide Pakistan with urgently needed anti-epidemic materials, including large quantities of testing kits, masks, ventilators, PPEs, medicines and cash to assist Pakistan in establishing a new isolation hospital. China has also held video conferences with Pakistan and sent medical teams to Pakistan for experience sharing and disease prevention and control. Meanwhile, China and Pakistan have overcome difficulties to promote the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, and maintained good communication and cooperation in international and regional affairs. The Ambassador paid gratitude to Pakistan for recognising outstanding contribution of China to international anti-epidemic cooperation and its firm opposition to stigmatise China by certain countries. When asked about progress of the construction of the SEZ, he revealed progress after years of hard work of both sides on SEZs. For example, the franchise agreement of Rashakai SEZ was signed in April 2019 under the witness of 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 works for peripheral roads, water and electricity supply and the Chinese side started to set up the makeshift camp. So far, all relevant work is moving forward steadily despite of the challenge of COVID-19. Many Chinese companies have expressed their interest to make investment in the SEZ. Allama Iqbal SEZ is moving even faster. Eleven Chinese enterprises have entered this SEZ, including Times Ceramic, Deli Household Glass Co. and Health Capsule, which cover a wide range of industries, such as manufacturing, chemical engineering and smelting. China and Pakistan also maintained close communication on the development of Dhabeji SEZ. At the same time, CPEC cooperation has also facilitated industrial cooperation between China and Pakistan in other areas. Now, there are over 400 Chinese enterprises operating in Pakistan, covering areas of IT, home appliances, finance, agriculture and e-commerce, etc. For example, Changan Auto built a joint venture in Karachi with Master Motors. Double Star Tire and Chaoyang Tire built joint ventures respectively with MSD Tire and Service Co. I firmly believe that with the improvement of the business environment and more preferential policies put in place in Pakistan, China and Pakistan’s industrial cooperation will be blessed with a bright future. On locust crisis, he said that in February, the Chinese government sent a work team of locust experts to Pakistan when China was still in critical stage of fighting against COVID-19. The Chinese expert team had extensive field investigation to locusts affected areas in Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab provinces. They came up with an informative package of policy suggestion on comprehensive prevention and control for Pakistan. Later on, the Chinese government assisted with 300 tons of malathion and 50 air-powered high-efficiency remote sprayers to Pakistan by the end of April to counter the locust plague. Under the MOU, China and Pakistan will jointly establish a centre for sustainable management of crop pests and diseases in Pakistan. The mission of the centre will focus on cooperation in plant protection, including monitoring and early warning, R&D, demonstration and extension, mutual recognition of standards, personnel training, and emergency response. Now, both agriculture authorities in China and Pakistan are engaged with each other to implement the MOU and strengthen our cooperation to build sustainable and comprehensive capabilities for locust control.


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