As was expected, the week-ong visit to Pakistan of
a 15-member Chinese delegation headed by the Vice Minister of Foreign
Trade and Economic Cooperation has proved highly successful as the
representatives of the two countries identified many new areas of
economic cooperation and boosting mutual trade.
As a result of this visit a new chapter of close
cooperation between Pakistan and China is expected to be opened in
many fields specially in the field of science and technology,
advancement of information technology and several other viable
scientific programmes in Pakistan besides heavy engineering and
development of ports etc.
Before the arrival of the Chinese delegation, the
Chief Executive Gen. Pervez Musharraf, while presiding over a cabinet
meeting, reportedly instructed the Planning Commission to formulate
suggestions for expansion of relationship with China, specially in the
economic field. He asked them to have in depth discussion with the
visiting Chinese delegation and identify specific projects of mutual
interest so that these plans could be discussed and crystallized on
the eve of impending official visit of Chinese Prime Minister next
month. He said there were strong indications that the Chinese trade
delegation was here in Pakistan to explore new avenues of investment
in heavy engineering, communication and construction projects besides
in the field of science & technology.
Pakistan is keen to develop deep strategic economic
relation with China investing in large scale development projects.
These issues were discussed on Friday last in a high level meeting
between economic team of Pakistan led by Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz
and 15-member Chinese delegation headed by An Min, Vice Minister of
the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation. These talks
took place ahead of the Chinese Prime Minister's visit to Pakistan
next month. Though there are close relations between the two
countries, particularly in the defence production, this does not fully
reflect in the economic sector.
In recent months, the volume of trade had inched up
a bit, but still there is a huge untapped potential.
Two sides have conducted various studies, and
exchanged many proposals on the subject. Mr. Aziz discussed a number
of projects with the Chinese team, which two sides can jointly
undertake. He also discussed import of textile machinery from China,
possibility of long-term financing, and urged the need of closer
cooperation between financial institutions of the two countries. China
is also likely to rollover a $500 million loan to Pakistan to help
stabilise the balance of payments situation. Pakistan has also sought
Chinese help to deal with the threatening drought situation. China
would also help Pakistan in the agriculture sector, particularly in
the development of high yielding rice varieties.
Since the Joint Economic Committee (JEC) meeting of
May 2000, two sides are trying to work out a strategy to strengthen
economic relations. After this JEC, China indicated possibility of
financing of various projects, like rehabilitation of Pakistan
Railways, construction of Gwadar Sea Port and expansion of Pakistan
Steel Mills. Chinese companies would also examine the possibility of
reinvesting in Saindak copper refinery.
Pakistan and China agreed to explore the
possibility of enlarging cooperation in the field of
telecommunications, agriculture, information technology, urban
planning, transportation, oil & gas and large infrastructure
projects. China would also encourage its corporate sector to build
small and medium size hydro power plants in Pakistan.
China would also expand its technical cooperation
with the Pakistani state-owned enterprises, including Pakistan Steel
Mills, Aeronautical Complex, Heavy Rebuild Factory, Heavy Mechanical
Complex, Heavy Electrical Complex, Pakistan Machine Tool Factory,
Pakistan Railways and, Oil and Gas Development Corporation (OGDC).
Official sources claimed that China has agreed to narrow down
bilateral trade deficit, which is heavily in favour of China at
present, and would assemble and manufacture small agricultural
machinery and household electric appliances in Pakistan.
Pakistan expects that visit of Chinese Prime
Minister would open the door to a large Chinese investment in
Pakistan, particularly in the large-scale development projects.
Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar is also likely to visit Beijing by next
week, and another senior level Chinese delegation is due in Islamabad
ahead of the visit of the Chinese Prime Minister to Pakistan.
It will be noted that the efforts being made by
Pakistan for retrieval of its economy from the rock bottom it was
found lying a couple of years ago, stand badly hampered from a number
of weak spots left in the process of development over the past several
decades. That these also include the areas now focused by our Chinese
friends, should be all the more welcome. It is largely because of the
basically flawed approach of the past several governments in a row to
the vital issues of economic development and trade, that the ongoing
reform has continued to leave a great deal to be desired. For the
expected good results from efforts for improvement in industrial
production and export promotion are generally offset by the lacunae in
the infrastructure and vital economic prerequisites. The sectors as
now identified for investment and promotion, can easily be seen as
plagued by the neglect of the past and hence demand spirited efforts
The seriousness of the Chinese government in
pursuing their initiatives, in this regard, should be evident from the
fact that the forthcoming visit of the strong exploratory delegation,
led by An Min, Vice-Minister of Foreign Trade of China, is scheduled
to be followed by the visit of Chinese Premier Zhu Rongi in May. It
goes without saying that Premier Zhu's talks with Pakistani leaders on
wide-ranging issues can help in consolidating the results of the
earlier discussions and thus pave the way for formal agreements of
cooperation in accordance with the mutual interest of the two