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Pakistan-China renew pledge to realize CPEC goals
  ·  2024-05-10  ·   Source: The Daily Mail, Pakistan

Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, Prof Ahsan Iqbal said on May 9 that Pakistan and China are fully committed to moving forward with the second phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the new government through its engagements with the Chinese leadership at senior level is trying to crystallize and define its parameters. 

This is our first engagement after the election in Pakistan with Chinese leadership at the senior level. Through this engagement, we are trying to crystallize and define the parameters of CPEC on which the Chinese side has indicated its willingness to move forward. And Pakistan is also very committed to moving forward, he said in his interaction with Chinese media at the Pakistan Embassy, in Beijing during his three-day visit to China. 

Prof Ahsan Iqbal said that during his meetings, both sides have discussed some high-priority and low-hanging projects which can be immediately started to give a jumpstart to the second phase of CPEC and broaden the cooperation from phase one to phase two. 

He said that agriculture, industrial cooperation, and the transfer of technology are very important for us. We want to expand our cooperation to bring new technology into the agriculture sector to enhance the productivity of Pakistan's agriculture sector. 

Second, we intend to enhance industrial cooperation. Particularly, there is a strong case for relocation of Chinese industries to Pakistan, where labor costs in China have increased and Pakistan offers a very attractive environment for relocation to the SEZs that we are setting up. And that will also help us to move from agricultural economy to industrial economy, he added. 

The minister said that one of the key and future goals for us is to take Pakistan from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy as fast as possible. And in this industrialization, we want to focus on exports and how to have export-led growth in Pakistan. So, China will also help us not only with relocation, but we are also seeking technical assistance that Chinese expertise in terms of developing its own exports and special economic zones that know how we would like to benefit from. There will be more cooperation at the level of experts to help Pakistan develop its exports and special economic zones. 

He said that the third area is technology because China has leadership and many new industrial revolution technologies, particularly artificial intelligence as well as IT sectors which are very important. 

Pakistan's IT sector is growing very fast and it could also contribute towards China's digital programs. Likewise, China's progress in artificial intelligence is very important because that is the new platform for future and digital economies. 

He informed that Pakistan is also preparing its national action plan for the adoption of artificial intelligence, and we will also benefit greatly in this area from China. Lastly, we also want to expand educational and technical exchange programs. Almost close to 27,000 students are studying in China. China has become a major destination for Pakistani students for higher education. 

We would like this cooperation to further expand and also to have greater partnership or twinning arrangements between Pakistani universities and Chinese universities so that they can undertake joint research in Pakistan, he added. 

Prof Ahsan Iqbal said that Pakistan also needs to have a greater understanding of Chinese markets. China imports almost 2.7 trillion dollars' worth of goods from the world. Pakistan's share is just a meager three billion dollars. I think we can easily expand Pakistan's market share in China from $3 to $30 billion. 

While stressing collaboration between Pakistani and Chinese businesses, he said that this is the important dimension that from government to government partnership that we saw in phase one and phase two, our priority is to move towards business-to-business cooperation as well as more private sector enterprise level cooperation between the two countries. 

Responding to a question about the safety of Chinese nationals, he said that the security of the Chinese nationals and projects has been further enhanced. We have also tried to minimize their land travel from project sites. We are moving them by helicopters to give them added security. We have also now enhanced the security in terms of the support of paramilitary forces and the police, and also strengthened the SOPs and the protocols of security. The minister said that the government is working closely with the Chinese enterprises so that they can educate their workers to follow the security protocols. A dedicated force of 12,000 soldiers has been deployed to look after the projects where the Chinese are working. In addition, police and paramilitary forces also augment them. 

We have a very high level of security apparatus, four layers of security, which we try to provide, to projects where Chinese workers are working. In the past, we have had great success from 2013 to 18 and during this period not a single incident took place. 

But lately, because of the success of CPEC, enemies are now targeting it to stop the progress, but, we will together, China and Pakistan will defeat them. We will chase them and we will eliminate them. We will not let anybody play with Pakistan and China's friendship, he added. 

To a question about the development of special economic zones and incentives for investment, he said that Pakistan already has incentives in place for Chinese enterprises. When they come to special economic zones, they get tax breaks and tax holidays, and there are several incentives. 

As far as the key areas are concerned, he said that the quick wins are in the agriculture sector. There is great demand for Pakistani agricultural products and meat in China. There are other products in textile that we can also now export to China. There is a copper export happening to China that can be upgraded. 

He said that now government focus is on export-led growth and we are working very closely with Pakistani businesses to expand their production and have exportable surplus. 

The government is encouraging all the chambers in Pakistan to have dedicated China cells for the education of the members to know what areas, and where they can export more to the Chinese market. And, similarly to have partnerships with Chinese chambers for them to know what are the business opportunities in Pakistan. 

Prof Ahsan Iqbal said that a business school consortium has been set up in the last ten years which will further be strengthened so that the business schools of the two countries can jointly undertake business studies to further research and educate the businesses on the cooperation prospects. 

It has a great opportunity for Pakistani businesses to provide their services in China to companies because our cost is very low. Recently, Huawei has shifted its global support unit to Pakistan which employs almost 3000 Pakistani engineers. Similarly, there are great opportunities for Chinese companies to take advantage of the low cost of production in Pakistan. 

The minister hoped that in this next phase, there'll be greater business-to-business cooperation that will bring further stimulus to CPEC. 

About the new energy vehicles and cooperation in the area of new quality productive forces such as digitalization and artificial intelligence, he said that China is a leader now in electric vehicles and Pakistan is seeking to transform its transportation sector with the help of China. 

We also have set up goals to have a greater share in our transport for electric vehicles to reduce pollution in our cities, he added. 

The minister said that he will be meeting some Chinese companies that are interested in setting up plants in Pakistan to manufacture EVs, automobiles, and buses. And particularly our interest is to have buses that will clear pollution from our cities, which are electric buses. 

Terming it a priority item for the future, he said, we have a corridor of innovation among the five corridors. This is about technology and this is about digitization and artificial intelligence is reshaping the whole spectrum of development. So, Pakistan is also developing plans to adopt artificial intelligence in its education sector, health sector, and its economy. 

We are looking forward to more collaboration with China to benefit from China's experience because China is a leader in this area. And with the help of China, we will be able to upgrade Pakistan's digital transformation program and make it faster. 

The minister said that he is visiting China after the new government took oath of office and this is the first high-level visit to be followed by the visit of the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister and then hopefully very soon, the Prime Minister of Pakistan is also likely to visit China. 

He said that Pakistan and China have enjoyed a unique relationship in diplomatic history this is a relationship that has always moved on an upward trajectory. This has never seen any autumn. There has always been spring in this relationship. 

The garden of friendship between Pakistan and China in every season has blossomed with new colorful flowers of cooperation and understanding between the people of Pakistan and China and the two brotherly iron brother countries. 

He said that in 2013, both Pakistan and China started a new initiative, according to the vision of Belt and Road Initiative and Pakistan’s Vision 2025, there was a fusion of the two visions in the shape of China China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. 

In 2013, when we started this initiative, Pakistan was facing severe energy shortages of up to 16 hours per day. Pakistan's economy and security situation had many challenges. We can never forget that at that time China reposed its trust and confidence in the economy of Pakistan in the people of Pakistan and started a 46 billion dollar project to help Pakistan overcome its difficulties. 

Between 2013 and 18, within five years, we were able to harness over 25 billion dollars' worth of projects, which helped Pakistan establish new power projects up to 8000-megawatt capacity, which helped us upgrade our logistics, construct new motorways, and highways to improve connectivity between Pakistan and China. 

The Chinese support helped us develop Gwadar port into a modern port, a smart city port. It also set up and laid fiber optic cable as an information highway between China and Pakistan. It helped with several socioeconomic projects. Recently we have celebrated the decade of CPEC and we can take a lot of pride that in the decade of CPEC, the flagship project has helped Pakistan transform its energy sector, and infrastructure sectors and also created over 2 million jobs. 

The CPEC has helped Pakistan acquire new technology, and new know-how, thousands of Pakistani engineers and workers were trained in these projects. And it has helped, to connect several parts of the country so that the fruits of development can be shared across various regions of Pakistan. 

Pakistan has benefited from financing by China, which has been very attractive financing for Pakistan, and the whole disinformation that whether CPEC or BRI is any debt trap has nothing in reality. CPEC has benefited Pakistan's economy immensely, he added.

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