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  • Sep 9th, 2018
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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi Saturday dispelled the impression that CPEC projects increased Pakistan's debt burden, pledging to further deepen strategic cooperative partnership with Islamabad in areas of economic, trade and defense sectors. Speaking at a joint new conference along with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi where only the state media of the two countries were invited, the visiting Chinese foreign minister rejected the concerns of the alleged burdening Pakistan's economy through Chinese loans.

"China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has not inflicted a debt burden on Pakistan, rather when these projects get completed and enter into operation, they will unleash huge economic benefits," he told the media persons after holding bilateral talks with his Pakistani counterpart.

He said that CPEC projects, once completed, will create considerable returns to the Pakistan's economy. "Its fruits would not be confined to one specific group or area, but would benefit the whole country and result in the overall development of the people of Pakistan," he insisted.

He pointed out that within the framework of CPEC, there are currently 22 cooperation projects, of which nine have been completed and 13 are under construction. With a total investment of US $19 billion, he said, the CPEC projects have driven Pakistan's economic growth by increasing 1 to 2 percentage points per year.

He further clarified that among the 22 projects under CPEC, 18 of them are directly invested or offered aid by China while only four of them are funded through Chinese concessional loans.

He also termed the concerns and worries about transparency of CPEC projects as "false", saying that all the projects had undergone necessary approvals. He said the preliminary achievements of CPEC mainly lie in energy and infrastructure sectors. "For pushing forward the CPEC in the next phase, relevant parties should first respect the wishes of the Pakistani side," he added.

He said that as per the preliminary agreements, the CPEC will focus on helping Pakistan grow its manufacturing base and foster self-development ability with a view to increasing employment opportunities and expanding trade.

Foreign Minister Wang said that China and Pakistan are willing to attract third party to participate in CPEC for the benefits of the people of the two countries, adding it also contribute to regional economic cooperation and connectivity.

He also reiterated China's commitment to work closely with the new government of Pakistan to achieve the shared goals of prosperity and development of the people of Pakistan.

He said during delegation level talks, they had discussed 10 points and agreed to further cement the existing excellent cooperation. He said issues of close strategic partnership, implementation of CPEC projects, facilitating export from Pakistan, improving the local manufacturing base and its integration at the international manufacturing at fast space, poverty alleviation and job creation were deliberated thoroughly and unanimity of views was expressed.

He said China is keen to further increase cooperation in agricultural, education and healthcare sectors to benefit Pakistani people. He also emphasized the need for enhanced cooperation and interaction in defense and security.

He said that China will support Pakistan in developing its industrial sector as well as help it increase its exports to China, adding subsidies will be given to encourage imports from Pakistan.

"We have decided to strive for a greater balance in a two-way trade. China will earmark amounts of subsidies to encourage imports from Pakistan...We will also broaden the market access to Pakistan's competitive agricultural products", he said, adding that China will help Pakistan developing a local manufacturing centre.

He said Pakistan always stood with China in difficult times and the Chinese leadership wants to reciprocate the same with fast implementation of the mega CPEC project aimed at supporting Pakistan.

He also highlighted the importance of the availability of energy and power for running the industry in Pakistan and said efforts are being made to overcome the issue through early harvesting projects.

He said China would continue its support to Pakistan, adding his country accords highest priority to its relations with Pakistan. He expressed the hope that the people of Pakistan would overcome challenges under the new elected leadership.

Describing Pakistan as a good friend, partner and 'iron brother,' he said that China and Pakistan are tied closely with strategic partnership based upon the mutual support and understanding.

"The friendship always stood tests of the time and international changes, as these are strong and unbreakable, deeply rooted in the hearts of the people of the two countries," he added.

The Chinese foreign minister also acknowledged Pakistan's efforts and sacrifices in the fight against terrorism and extended his country's full support to all its efforts to eliminate terrorism.

He also underlined the need to further increase people-to-people contacts and exchanges of delegations of the youth. He announced that they would take steps to further facilitate Pakistani citizens visiting China.

On international cooperation, he stressed upon the significance of reconciliation and peace process in Afghanistan, adding that the two sides agreed to advance peace in Afghanistan.

In his remarks, Foreign Minister Qureshi said that during the meeting they held in depth discussions on many important and pressing issues and agreed to further strengthen the bilateral ties and maintain close communication on regional and global issues. "China is Pakistan's all-weather friend and Pakistan can always rely on China's support at various international fora," he said.

On CPEC, he said that CPEC is the proof of how sustainable the One Belt, One Road initiative can become with active engagement of all stakeholders of both public and private sectors.

"We have made substantive progress on the CPEC. I reassured the foreign minister that the CPEC is of immense strategic importance for Pakistan. We are highly grateful for the personal attention the Chinese leadership has accorded to the implementation of CPEC," he said, adding that CPEC will remain a priority for the government and it will ensure that the ongoing projects are implemented at the earliest.

He said that the Chinese side was assured that security of the Chinese nationals on CPEC is a top priority and the country's law enforcement authorities are working harder to ensure a secure working environment for Chinese nationals in Pakistan.

On trade, the foreign minister said that he urged his Chinese counterpart to work together towards enhancing bilateral trade cooperation. "While overall trade is increasing, we feel the increasing need to harness our economic potential to export to China those goods and products which are at comparative advantage," he said.

He said they also agreed to the importance of relocation of industry, vocational training for making Pakistani people more productive, strengthening of agricultural base and opportunities provided to farmers.

The matters regarding export of Pakistan's agricultural produce to China and implementation on the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) were also discussed, adding that there is also opportunity for any third party to invest in the SEZs.

He said the trade possibilities of Pakistan's exports to China with provision of subsidies could remove imbalance of trade.

He said that he also conveyed to his Chinese counterpart that Pakistan greatly appreciates the consistent support by China at multilateral fora, adding Pakistan has progressed in many regional initiatives such Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) mainly due to Chinese support and expressed the hope that China will continue to support Pakistan at multilateral fora.

On terrorism, Qureshi said that Pakistan has paid a huge price in combating terrorism and obliteration of terrorist activities from its soil. "We strongly condemn all terrorist activities perpetrated by the individuals, groups or states. Our efforts, in this regard, have always been supported by China," he added.

He said that the Chinese foreign minister highlighted Pakistan's immense contributions in combating terrorism and emphasized China's full support in this regard. He acknowledged Pakistan's sacrifices and urged the international community to appreciate Pakistan's role in counterterrorism which is a global problem.

Qureshi underlined the importance of defense cooperation with China especially keeping in view Pakistan's urgent needs in the evolving regional scenario and the cooperation to counterterrorism and collectively to deal with terrorist threats in the region.

He said that the two sides also underlined the need for an early start of Pakistan-China Strategic Dialogue to further deepen the strategic relations between the two sides.

He said that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang identified 10 areas where potential of cooperation exists to further enhance bilateral relations and cooperation in these areas.

To a question, he said that Pakistan has no concerns to be shared with China, adding that talks were held in a cordial environment touching upon bilateral, regional and international issues. "You will be surprised to know that we have identical views on almost all issues," he said, adding that he also shared with his Chinese counterpart the outcome of his discussion with US Secretary Mike Pompeo who visited Pakistan on September 5.

He said, "I also discussed with the foreign minister the priorities of the PTI government including poverty alleviation, socio-economic development, job creation, and rooting out corruption which will be incorporated in our future joint endeavors."

He said that the Chinese foreign minister also extended an invitation to Prime Minister Imran Khan to visit China in November this year on an official bilateral visit and also participate in the International Import-Export in Shanghai as Chinese guest. "We also extended invitations to Chinese President and the Prime Minister to visit Pakistan," he added.

According to a press release issued by the Foreign Office, the Chinese state councillor led a high-level delegation including three ministerial level representatives in the talks with Foreign Minister Qureshi.

Following one-on-one meeting, it stated that the two foreign ministers held an in-depth exchange of views on the entire gamut of bilateral relationship including economic cooperation, CPEC, defense cooperation and cultural and educational cooperation.

While reaffirming the "all-weather strategic cooperative partnership" between the two countries, Wang underlined that Pakistan will always be a priority for China in its foreign policy, it stated.

The state councillor reiterated that Pakistan is China's "Iron brother" and the bilateral partnership serves as an anchor for regional peace and stability, it stated, adding China will work with Pakistan to prioritize CPEC projects so as to benefit all regions of Pakistan.

The foreign minister reciprocated the sentiments of the state councillor and reaffirmed the strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries. He underlined that regardless of political changes, the bilateral relationship will remain as strong as ever.

The two sides expressed their convergence that social economic development will be an important area under the CPEC cooperation between Pakistan and China. During the meeting, the regional situation also came under discussion, it added.

The Chinese state councillor congratulated Foreign Minister Qureshi on his appointment as the foreign minister and conveyed the message of goodwill from the Chinese leadership to the new government of Pakistan.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2018

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