China will never want to ‘damage industry of its special partner’

ISLAMABAD: As a sign of deepening relations, Beijing has invited Pakistan to attend the China International Import Expo later this year, a move aimed at helping the country increase its exports through products’ exhibition.

Addressing a press conference along with Commerce Minister Pervaiz Malik, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing also said that Beijing was willing to accommodate concerns of the country’s private sector when it came to terms of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

Yao said the expo would provide an opportunity to exporters to display their products and take advantage of stakeholders’ presence to increase their market.

In response, Malik said Pakistan would look forward to creating a good impression on the global market. The expo will be held in Shanghai from November 5 to 10 this year.

Pakistan and China have recently deepened their partnership in the economic arena. The multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the flagship project of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which features extensive development of infrastructure and power projects in the country.

While most hail CPEC as a ‘game-changer’, critics say China stands to benefit more than what Pakistan does, arguing that Islamabad will lose out and end up repaying billions in debt without getting much in return.

Talks on FTA

The argument extends to the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) both sides signed in 2006, and now sees the trade balance hugely in favour of China.

Currently, Pakistan’s trade deficit with China stands at $12 billion with the gap expected to increase due to the import of CPEC-related machinery.

However, the Chinese envoy looked to appease the situation, saying that bilateral trade issues were discussed during the meeting.

“One reason for the imbalance in bilateral trade is that Pakistan is  importing machinery from China,” said Yao.

He hoped that Pakistani exports to China would increase with industrial development in the country.

Export of sugar, corn, vegetables, textiles, and sea food from Pakistan can be enhanced, stated Yao.

“In the next five years, China is expecting to import products and services valuing more than $10 trillion, which provides a historic opportunity for enterprises across the world to enter the huge Chinese market,” said a statement issued by the embassy.

Commerce Secretary Younus Dagha said Pakistan’s exports to China can increase if the latter gives the same concessions it gives to ASEAN countries.

The ambassador also informed that Gwadar industrial zone’s ceremonial inauguration would be held on January 29.

It was also stated that Pakistan and China would hold another round of FTA talks. “I understand that there are some kind of concerns from Pakistan’s private sector, manufacturers on the FTA,” added Yao. “China looks to Pakistan as a special partner and it would never like to damage its industry through this kind of bilateral agreement.

“Our intention is to have a more convenient and facilitating mechanism of bilateral trade. We want to encourage and facilitate cooperation on the principles of following Pakistan’s convenience, concerns and satisfying its requirements.”

Published in The Express Tribune, January 24th, 2018.

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