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China-Pakistan ties always a Priority in Neighbouring Diplomacy: Premier Li

China has always regarded its relations with Pakistan as a priority in neighbouring diplomacy, said Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, while reiterating China’s firm support to Pakistan in defending its sovereignty, territorial integrity, and legitimate rights.

Premier Li made the remarks on Tuesday when meeting with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is on a two-day visit to China for discussions of the security situation in the region and economic ties with China. Khan is also expected to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Premier Li spoke highly of China-Pakistan relations. As China’s all-weather strategic cooperative partner, Li stressed that the bilateral ties, with no strings attached and are not targeted to any third party, are always a priority in China’s neighbouring diplomacy.

Noting that the relations are sincerely supported by two peoples, Premier Li promised that China will continue to support Pakistan in not only its national development, but also regional and international affairs by helping it play a more active role.

China-Pakistan relations serve both national and regional interests, said Li, calling for joint efforts to strengthen the bilateral ties to a new stage.

Learning that Pakistan has passed its economic hardship, Li said that China is glad to hear that and vowed to offer Pakistan assistance to its best capabilities.

Khan, for his part, attributed Pakistan’s stable economic development to China’s kind assistance and firm support. The prime minister pledged to expand the scale of trade and investment with China.

Speaking of economic cooperation, the two sides agreed to jointly promote the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Gwadar port, and beef up the synergy between the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) and Pakistan’s development strategy so as to enhance cooperation in various fields and realise common development.

After the meeting, the two leaders witnessed the signing of over 10 bilateral agreements on infrastructure, law enforcement and security, culture, education, and media.

According to Chinese Foreign Ministry, Khan will also attend the closing ceremony of the Beijing International Horticultural Exhibition on Wednesday.

Source: Belt and Road News Network

Dated on:10/9/2019

Chinese company grants $1.2bn for Gwadar Port’s development

ISLAMABAD: The sub-Committee of the Senate Standing Committee on Maritime Affairs was told on Friday that the China Overseas Port Holding Company (COPHC) had given a grant of US$1.2 billion to carry out the development work in the area of Gwadar Port.

“The China desires to see Pakistan as a prosperous state,” Chairman COPHC Zang Baozhong said while briefing the sub-committee about the issues faced by the company for the area’s development.

The panel, which met here with Senator Kauda Babar in chair, called for expediting the work in Gwadar Port and facilitating the local and foreign investors while reviewing various issues pertaining to the port and its investors.

The committee chairman appreciated the interest of Chinese investors in the development of Pakistan and promised all-out support to them for executing the development projects in the area, assuring the company that their issues would be resolved on priority.

Taking up the issue of Internet connectivity with the PTCL, the Committee took exception over its demand and summoned the Secretary Ministry of Information Technology in the next meeting along with the telecommunications’ company senior officers to discuss the issue at length.

The Ministry of Maritime Affairs assured the Committee that the issue was being persued vigorously.

Discussing the establishment of the Transit Trade Directorate at Gwadar Port, the committee was informed that the matter was under discussion and the meetings with the Ministry of Commerce and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) were being held.

Gwadar Port was fully equipped with the facilities that are required to handle variety of shipments, it further informed.

The committee was briefed that the Pakistan Revenue Automation Limited had rolled out the WeBOC transit trade module in the area while a User Acceptance Test (UAT) was in the anvil.

The Ministry of Commerce informed the committee that the negotiations were being carried out by bonded careers such as the National Logistic Cell and Pak-Afghan Cargo Services.

A Special Incentives Package had been offered to the Afghan Transit Traders the ministry officials said while briefing the committee about development of system that would help direct all Afghan transit trade from Karachi to Gwadar.

Chairman Committee, Senator Kauda Babar was of the view that Gwadar would never want to deprive Karachi of business, however, those who wished to use Gwadar Port must be facilitated.

Discussing Tax exemptions pertaining to Gwadar Port and GFZ, the Committee was informed that the matter was under review at the Ministry of Law and Justice for its recommendations.

Reviewing the progress on Eastbay Expressway, the Committee stressed the need to protect the interest of locals.

It was recommended that the Planning Commission be summoned in the next meeting to review the matter in greater detail.

Chairman Committee directed the Gwadar Port Authority to expedite all matters so that the Port may become fully operational by October 15, 2019, after which the Committee would visit the site.

The Ministry of Commerce, FBR and Custom Directorate were directed to brief the Committee regarding the existing rules and regulations related to the development of a zone at the port where the Chinese trawlers could store fish caught in international waters for the export.

The meeting was attended by Senator Moula Bux Chandio, and senior officers from the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Gwadar Port Authority FBR, PTCL along with all concerned.

Source: The News 

Dated on: 21/9/2019

PM reiterates Pakistan’s resolve to complete projects under CPEC

Prime Minister Imran Khan has reiterated Pakistan’s resolve to complete ongoing projects under China Pakistan Economic Corridor which will contribute substantially to Pakistan’s development and prosperity.

Talking to Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing, who called on him in Islamabad on Tuesday, the Prime Minister also reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to further strengthening the All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership with China.

On this occasion, Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing conveyed the best wishes of President Xi Jinping to Imran Khan on his forthcoming birthday.

The Prime Minister asked the Ambassador to convey his thanks to the Chinese President.

Source: Radio Pakistan

Dated on: 18/9/2019

CPEC review meeting for removing bottlenecks of projects

ISLAMABAD: The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) review meeting Friday deliberated upon issues confronting different projects under CPEC decided to fast track their resolution for timely completion of all projects.

Minister for Planning underlined the need for meeting the projects’ timelines and called for further gearing up the momentum in CPEC projects.

The 58th progress review meeting of CPEC projects was held here under the Chairmanship of Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Mukhdum Khusro Bakhtyar.

The minister underlined the need for meeting projects’ timelines and called for further gearing up the momentum in CPEC projects.

He said CPEC, as stated by Prime Minister Imran Khan, is a project of great national significant for Pakistan which will be a harbinger of development and prosperity for Pakistan and the region.

Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing, DCPC Dr. Mohammad Jehanzeb Khan, Secretary Planning Zafar Hasan, representatives from Chinese enterprises and senior officials from relevant ministries also attended the meeting.

The Minister said that the incumbent Government, in consultation with the Government of China, has succeeded in expanding its scope to include other priority areas under its framework including socio-economic development, poverty alleviation, agricultural and industrial cooperation.

The second phase, as envisioned by Prime Minister Imran Khan, will focus, among others, on welfare projects for the betterment of the people of Pakistan and we are thankful to the Government of China for broadening its framework which will contribute to the sustained development of Pakistan, stated the Minister.

The Minister reiterated that the Government remains fully committed to realize the potential and opportunities under CPEC framework.

Speaking on the occasion, Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing said that CPEC is heading in the right direction adding that CPEC is quite different from other Belt and Road initiatives as this flagship project manifests the longstanding friendship between the two friendly countries and will bring prosperity and progress for Pakistan.

CPEC is a product of vision of two brotherly countries that goes beyond traditional business dealings reflecting decades old strong bonds of bilateral cooperation and shared goals with win-win situation for all.

He stressed that the project will continue to progress on expedited pace, as reiterated by Prime Minister Imran Khan in his recent meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister, for timely completion of all projects.

During the meeting, various projects of CPEC were discussed in detail one by one. Secretary Power informed that the synchronized demand-supply study of CPEC energy projects will be firmed up by October 2019. NEPRA said that all pending tariff issues including of of Port Qasim and Gwadar 300 MW coal project will be resolved soon.

Talking about Kohala Hydro power project, the minister said that it is an important project and expressed gratitude to the Government of China and Three Gorges for extending cooperation in this regard. It was decided that process for establishing appellate tribunal will be expedited to resolve future tariff issues of energy projects.

It was informed that the Gwadar development Authority, headed by Chief Minister Balochistan, has approved the Gwadar city master plan with some minor modifications. Secretary Communications informed that Multan-Sukkur motorway will be opened soon for general traffic as the work was almost complete.

The Minister and the Chinese ambassador appreciated the pace of work on the East Bay Expressway project.

Orange Line Train project and ongoing projects in Gwadar were also deliberated upon in detail.

The Minister said that SEZs would help in boosting Pakistan’s exports and achieving sustainable economic growth.

Source: Business Recorder 

Dated on: 16/9/2019

CPEC’s second phase can put Pakistan’s economy back on track

Before CPEC, Pakistan was going through the worst load on power management and according to the government of Pakistan, the country was losing $4-5 billion every year due to energy shortages, while the estimated cost did not include social costs to society.

On the other hand, the National Highway Authority (NHA) estimated that Pakistan needed $1.2 billion to rehabilitate the transportation infrastructure, which along with the energy shortage, was hindering the country’s fast economic growth.

Pakistan managed to address these major issues with the help of the first phase of CPEC, which is now entering the second phase. Once again, the time is critical as all economic indicators are painting a miserable picture – inflation is on the rise, the rupee has depreciated against the US dollar – and new opportunities are few.

The government is striving to reverse the order and is aggressively pursuing any available opportunity for investment and job creation. The second phase of the economic corridor can be the answer to that, but the question is what strategies and tools are required by Pakistan to benefit from the next phase. Moving forward, there are three points which need to be taken into consideration.

First, the initial phase of CPEC was dominated by infrastructure development. All these interventions needed the lead role of the government, although, with certain reservations, the government managed to play a good role. Secondly, Pakistan should keep in mind the economic and development status of the country before designing any intervention. The first point to recognise here is that Pakistan lies between the primary and secondary phase of economic development, which means the country has started to graduate from commodities or natural resource stage and is trying to enter the second phase.

Although the process is slow, the country is still making progress. Therefore, the future plan should be developed keeping in mind the current status of development.

The second phase is all about industrial cooperation, development of agriculture and trade, therefore, its needs and demands are entirely different from the first phase. The first required the leading role of the government, while the second phase requires a 180-degree change in management and roles of actors. It demands the leading role of industrialist, the private sector and the business community, while the government’s role would be only of a facilitator.

The government needs to start future planning and phasing of implementation for the second part of CPEC, accordingly. In this regard, the government has started to engage the business community of Pakistan by creating a ‘business council’ under the chairmanship of Abdul Razak Dawood. However, the direction of the business council is not clear yet and the terms of reference (ToRs) are not depicting the required changes and instruments for practical interventions.

Business council

It is feared that the council will prove to be just another talk shop without much delivery. For meaningful engagement of the business community, Pakistan will have to adopt a more practical approach and well-thought strategy for engagement.

First of all, the business council should be made an independent body and should have direct linkages with the Prime Minister’s Office and National Development Council. The main work of the council should be to design a comprehensive plan for intervention by the business community and propose a role for the government to accomplish it. Moreover, the council must have the power to monitor the implementation of proposed interventions and lastly, it should not be confused with other government bodies like the CPEC Authority, etc.

Promoting SMEs

Apart from the business council, the government should also design a pathway for the development of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), trade and job creation. This pathway should be developed by engaging the real actors of these sectors and should not be limited to the work of some consultants or bureaucrats.

Inclusion of SMEs would play a prominent role in reversing the economic downfall. Presently, Pakistan’s major exportable products, except textile products, come from SMEs. In the textile sector, Pakistan has already achieved the maximum level of exports, especially in the context of sheer competition from other countries, while the SMEs have a huge potential to exploit. Pakistan can prioritise its joint venture with Chinese or European counterparts. It will help the country attract good investment and give impetus to exports.

Tapping the food industry

In addition, the agriculture-based industry has the potential to immediately provide relief. Urgent steps can be taken to strengthen the supply chain of agriculture and livestock products. It is predicted that the halal food markets will reach the figure of $3 trillion in the coming years. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s share in the halal food market is very low or negligible. Recently, a report predicted that Pakistan can easily capture the $5-6-billion market with relevant strategies.

Moreover, China is also emerging as one of the major importers of food products. Pakistan can also benefit from the Chinese market. To exploit the market, the country needs the best supply chain, certification of products and maintenance of hygiene standards. Owing to limited resources and lack of capacity, the government cannot provide the required facilities except the legal cover.

Therefore, it is advisable that the government assign private sector a leading role and facilitate them. The private sector has resources and a will to invest if the government provides them with a good playing field. The second phase of CPEC provides a good opportunity to engage the private sector and business community to develop joint ventures in this sector.

Some companies from China want to work with Pakistani companies to build supply lines for halal food and export of food to China. These Chinese companies have good experience in maintaining hygiene and quarantine standards, but they need acceptable halal food certification. They also need to venture in new markets in order to build reliable international markets to meet the ever-increasing demand for food in China.

These companies are interested in working with the private sector and are looking to work in an atmosphere that encourages the private sector’s growth. Therefore, it is advisable for Pakistan to create an environment which encourages the lead role of the private sector.

SOURCE: Express Tribune

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‘Reports of CPEC Authority’s rejection incorrect’

CPEC Parliamentary Committee Chairman Sher Ali Arbab has upheld the decision of formation of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority, saying there is complete unanimity among the respective lawmakers that CPEC authority is to be established.

Rejecting reports of CPEC Authority of being opposed, Arbab said the committee took stock of various feasibilities and options to keep the authority autonomous as parliamentarians believed CPEC Authority should have autonomous status to run its affairs without getting embroiled into any bureaucratic glitches.

Speaking to Geo.tv, Arbab said,

“CPEC authority was not rejected. A couple of members had reservations on how it will function as an autonomous body.”

He added, nobody rejected the notion and that it was an in-camera parliamentary committee meeting in which people had different views which were encouraged.

The sixth meeting of the CPEC parliamentary committee which was held at the Parliament House on September 5, discussed to evaluate the feasibility of different proposals and projects connected to CPEC being a well-thought scheme to take the country out of a crisis by developing SEZs to work as engine 0f economic growth.

The chairman and members during the meeting raised different questions during the briefing by relevant secretaries and ministries regarding their projects with remarks to complete the required assessments and evaluations keeping in view the available budgetary provisions out of government resources as well as consideration of market forces to make them sustainable.

At the end of the meeting, the chairman indicated that the committee members would have their next meeting in Gwadar to meet the locals and to see the progress in particular which were meant for the natives to improve their lives and job opportunities.

The meeting was attended by Noor Alam Khan, Sadaqat Ali Khan, Zille Huma, Ghous BuxKhan Mehar, Ahsan Iqbal Ch, Sardar Ayaz Saddiq, Zahid Akram Durrani, Muhammad Aslam Bhootani, MNs, Senators Mir Kabeer Ahmed Muhammad Shahi, senator Dr. Shehzad Waseem, Senator Ahmed Khan, and secretaries.

SOURCE: Geo News

Pakistani students show keen interest in learning Chinese language

ISLAMABAD, Aug. 28 (Xinhua) — The first ever “Chinese Bridge” Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign Secondary School Students was held in Pakistan on Wednesday where nine middle school students participated in Chinese language debate and cultural performance.

A student of Roots Millennium School Flagship Campus Abeeha Shoaib secured the first position, and won a fully-funded plan to visit China to participate in the final round of the competition to be held in Beijing where she will compete with other students winning the competition from the world over.

Pakistani students are developing more and more interest in the Chinese language, and to provide them opportunity to learn the language, many local educational institutes have started Chinese language classes at primary and university level.

Presently, many top-rated universities and schools of the country including the National University of Science and Technology, Comsats University Islamabad and Roots School System are offering Chinese language classes in their curriculum, and over 25,000 students across the country are learning the language in these institutes.

Besides the “Chinese Bridge,” competitions are also frequently held in schools where students actively participate to show their fluency of Chinese language and their love for Chinese culture.

Head of the Chinese Language Department at Roots Millennium Education Mona Kanwal told Xinhua that the commencement of the Chinese proficiency event in Pakistan will encourage more students to learn the language and participate in the event in the future.

She said that in her school system, which has campuses across the country, over 8,000 students are learning Chinese language, and the trend is on rise.

“We started Chinese classes a decade ago, and at that time it was very hard to convince parents to let their kids learn Chinese, but now after the initiation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, more and more students are showing keen interest to learn the language.”

Source: Xinhua

Dated on: 28/8/2019

Work on 27 new CPEC projects may begin this year, says Chinese CG

KARACHI: “There will be 27 new projects in the second phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC),” said Consul General of China Wang Yu during a dialogue on the subject organised by the Karachi Council on Foreign Relations (KCFR) at a local hotel here on Thursday.

He said that following the signing of the memorandum of understanding between China and Pakistan for the second phase of CPEC earlier this year, work on these 27 new projects was expected to begin by the end of the year.

“Agriculture, education, vocational training, industry, increase in water supply, etc, are all part of our plans for the next phase,” he added.

He also said that because of the good diplomatic relations and close friendship enjoyed by China and Pakistan, many Pakistani students were going to China for their higher studies while many Chinese students are studying in universities in Pakistan. “The Chinese Consulate in Pakistan also sends some 20 Pakistani journalists to China on an annual basis. These journalists then pen articles about China and prepare documentaries about our country, which helps others here know China better,” he said.

‘Kashmir is a historic issue which should be resolved through talks’

“Likewise, China also invites and hosts artists and painters from Pakistan for the exchange of cultures of both countries. Our doctors and surgeons also visit Pakistan regularly and they perform several complicated surgeries for free here. In Karachi alone, our ophthalmologists have performed over 500 cataract surgeries. And this relationship should grow further with the efforts of people from all walks of life on both sides, be they businessmen, politicians or other professionals. We need to be focusing together on positive outlooks,” he said.

Regarding the situation in India-occupied Kashmir, the CG said that China stood with Pakistan. “Kashmir is a historic issue which should be resolved through talks,” he added.

KCFR chairman Ikram ul Majeed Sehgal said that the current situation with India and what they were doing in Kashmir made China’s friendship with Pakistan and its stance particularly important.

Answering a question about security, Consul General Yu said there was no economic development without security. “Education and employment is also affected by a lack of security,” he said.

About the nuclear power plants in Karachi, he said he was aware that they were to come online by next year. “Power plants are needed as soon as possible in order to address the issue of energy shortage. Nuclear power plants will address this country’s long-term needs,” he said.

“There is also severe water shortage here but hopefully things would improve after heavy rainfall in Balochistan,” he added.

In reply to another question about garbage and waste disposal and how the contract with the Chinese company that was going to do the work here was cancelled, he explained that there were two sides to the story. “The Chinese side is that the Sindh government didn’t fulfil its part of the deal and the money was not paid to the company on time and they were left to work on their own resources. Meanwhile, the Pakistan side is that the Chinese company did not fulfil its agreement. But the contract was mainly cancelled due to commercial reasons,” he said.

In reply to a question about investment from China, he said the last two to three months had seen more Chinese investors coming here. “They are eager to invest here but they also need to know that the investments they make are sound and that they will also earn money here and for this there is a need for a fine transport system for the transportation of goods, new airports, etc. We are here for business and trade, but we are not in a decision-making position,” he cleared.

Published in Dawn, August 30th, 2019

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China’s Western Region set to attract more Investment

China’s western region is set to attract more investment as the country’s top private companies are discovering the great potential in the region.

During the recently concluded China Top 500 Private Enterprises Summit in Xining, capital of northwest China’s Qinghai Province, entrepreneurs shared their insights on investment and high quality development in the western region.

“By holding the summit, we are expecting to boost the development of Qinghai and its neighbouring areas, and promote the implementation of the country’s strategy of developing the west,” said Gao Yunlong, chairman of the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, organiser of the summit.

A total of 120 billion yuan (about 16.9 billion U.S. dollars) was channelled to Qinghai during the event, according to official data.

China’s western region boasts rich natural resources but remains relatively underdeveloped compared to other parts of the country.

Located in northwest China, Qinghai ranks first in the reserve of 11 kinds of minerals and is a major hydro-power base in the country.

The plateau province enjoys about 11 percent of China’s solar energy resources.

“Qinghai has great potential for development due to its abundant resources. There are many things we can do here,” said Li Ruibin, President of Longy Group, a company that focuses on development and construction, energy and financial investment.

The company based in Shaanxi Province, will invest over 10 billion yuan in Qinghai, covering fields of smart city construction and sand control.

Chinese telecom firm Huawei is also working with the province to build a big data park in Hainan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, which is Huawei’s 33rd cloud services spot in the country.

In 2018, Huawei started the construction of the park which is made up of facilities including big data centre, smart city display centre and big data industry incubation base.

The total investment will amount to 50 billion yuan by 2025 upon the completion of the park, according to local officials.

Apart from China’s strategy of developing the west, the Belt & Road Initiative is also bringing new opportunities to China’s west, making it a new engine for the country’s economic growth.

Due to the improved transportation, northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is now better connected with the rest of the country than ever before.

As China’s gateway to Central and West Asia, the once-remote region has become a business hub on the Belt & Road.

Thanks to many preferential policies granted to the region, Xinjiang is becoming a hot spot for business investment. An increasing number of multinational corporations are shifting their focus from China’s east to west, channelling more and more investment to Xinjiang.

In the first half of 2019, Xinjiang recorded a fixed-asset investment of about 184 billion yuan, up 7.3 percent year on year, according to an economic performance report issued by the regional government.

However, the development of China’s west is still unbalanced and inadequate, which is a major challenge faced by the region.

Governments at various levels have rolled out measures to promote more balanced economic development and improve the business environment to attract more investors.

“We will break down all kinds of invisible barriers to create a level playing field for private enterprises, and cut taxes and administrative fees so they can go forward with fewer burdens,” said Liu Ning, Governor of Qinghai Province.

Source: Belt and Road News

Date: 29/8/2019

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Revised FTA with China ‘silver lining’ for Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: 

Experts have urged the government to build the country’s export capacity in order to cater to the demand from Chinese markets at competitive prices, amid finalisation of second phase of the free trade deal between Pakistan and China.

At a seminar on ‘Pakistan-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA): Where we are and where we are going?’ on Monday, they termed the FTA a silver lining for Pakistan’s economy and a splendid opportunity for both countries.

Speaking on the occasion, Chinese Embassy Economic and Commercial Section Minister Counsellor Wang Zhihua said though the trade volume between Pakistan and China had increased over the years, the trade imbalance remained the biggest challenge. “The main reason behind the trade imbalance between the two countries is of structural nature, where China has a strong manufacturing base to export goods as compared to imports,” he remarked.

Wang said the finalisation of the second phase of FTA between the two countries on the sidelines of the second Belt and Road Forum would help resolve such issues and further strengthen bilateral trade ties.

He argued that as per FTA phase two, China had agreed to eliminate duties on more than 300 products, especially in the agriculture sector, where Pakistan had the potential to expand its export basket. “We hope that the government will adopt a new industrial policy at the earliest to help improve business environment and ease of doing business,” he said, adding that it would also help Chinese investors bring more investment.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2019.