Dec 13 - 19, 2010

Pakistan and China have agreed to launch a new 5 year Development Plan (FYDP) besides approving 36 projects worth $13.28 billions for Pakistan in various field to further boost bilateral economic cooperation between the two countries. These decisions were taken at the two-day meeting of the Joint Committee on Economic, Trade, Scientific, and Technical Cooperation, comprising representatives of the two countries in Islamabad last week.

It was the fourth session of the JEC with Pakistan's Finance Minister, Dr. Hafeez Sheikh and visiting international trade representative of Ministry of Commerce of China, Gao Hucheng in the chair. The proposal of projects agreed upon are related to the development of industry, water and energy, agriculture and communication.

Addressing a joint press conference, Dr. Hafeez and Hucheng told reporters that the JEC has also agreed to boost export from Pakistan to China by providing tariff relaxation through free trade agreement. For this purpose, China would also send purchasing missions to Pakistan to book orders for export and facilitate Pakistani exports to visit China and participate in the trade fairs to explore markets for their products besides building their capacity. In addition, the JEC has agreed to enhance Chinese investment in various sectors of Pakistani economy including agriculture, electricity, mining and infrastructure.

Dr. Hafeez said that the bilateral trade between the two countries, at present, was about $6.2 billions with annual increase of 30 percent would be further enhanced. The minister appreciated the immediate response of the Chinese government in provision of relief goods for the flood victims and announcing of $250 million grant for reconstructing the infrastructure destroyed by the floods.

Gao Hucheng said the increasing economic and trade relations between the two countries were a proof of the time-tested friendship between the two countries. He noted that although the trade between the two countries was in favor of China, however efforts would be made now to turn the balance in favor of Pakistan by enhancing Pakistani exports to China

It was also disclosed that the Chinese Prime Minister, during his scheduled visit to Pakistan during the current month, may address the joint session of the National Assembly and the Senate. The government of Pakistan is planning to accord this honor to the distinguished guest. The scheduled visit of Chinese Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao, is expected to become a yet another landmark in the decades of Pakistan-China time tested friendship and trust.

The Chinese leader is equally popular in Pakistan as in China and considered the most trustworthy friend of Pakistan. Pakistanis believe that Beijing also realises the importance of expanding its relations with Pakistan and upcoming visit of Chinese premier will start a new era of deep strategic cooperation in all issues of common interest. China is perhaps the only country which has always showed its strong support to Pakistan on all issues including that of Kashmir.

In the face of international doubt and pressure, both countries have always stood by each other as ever supportive allies and the friendship will continue both China and Pakistan to create stability in the region. The Karakoram highway, Gwadar port, and Chashma nuclear reactors are all a manifestation of China's sustained interest in the progress of its old friend.

Pakistan is endowed with one of the world's largest coal reserves besides having huge energy potential of hydro, wind, and solar. However, due to lack of capital and technology, the country is facing its worst power shortage these days.

It is gratifying that in the new five years plan approved in the last week meeting of the JEC held in Islamabad had paid full attention to this pressing need of Pakistan and resolved to meet fully the energy requirements of Pakistan. During his scheduled visit to Pakistan, the Chinese would sign many of the 36 projects with an outlay of over $13 billion. He is also likely to announce the relaxation of tariff under free trade agreement to increase the exports from Pakistan. All this would be in addition to the projects already under execution with Chinese help.