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ISLAMABAD, April 5: China on Tuesday held out a categorical assurance to Pakistan to defend its “sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity” as Prime Minister Wen Jiabao began a three-day visit to the country. The two countries signed 22 agreements to boost cooperation in defence, political, trade and economic areas after formal talks between Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and his Pakistani counterpart Shaukat Aziz. The two prime minister held over an hour-long exclusive meeting before they were joined by their delegations.

The two leaders signed the ‘Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Good Neighbourly Relations’ and witnessed the signing of other accords that include agreement on combating terrorism, separatism and extremism.

The agreement on ‘early harvest programme’ would offer special tariff arrangements to 767 items and would form the basis of negotiations on the free-trade area.

Under this programme, all exportable items of Pakistan, including textile goods, surgical and sports goods, vegetable, fruits, rice, citrus and mangoes, will have market access in China with tariff reduced to zero from January 2006, while Pakistan will import machinery and raw material.

Talking to reporters with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, Mr Aziz said the treaty of friendship “institutionalizes the broad-based and multi-faceted relations between Pakistan and China”.

The two leaders described the talks ‘productive’. Prime Minister Aziz said Pakistan-China friendship had entered a new era.

Mr Aziz underlined the need for their private sectors to more actively contribute to these efforts.

Mr Wen complemented the sentiments of Mr Aziz and said Pakistan and China enjoyed all-weather cooperation.

He said the two countries held similar view on various issues.

“The talks marked a new stage in the Pakistan-China friendship,” he added and noted a huge potential that needed to be tapped in areas of economy and trade.

Mr Wen said they discussed means to enhance mutual trust and broaden cooperation.

He said the two countries resolved the issue of ‘early harvest’ under the FTA negotiations which, he added, would give a fresh impetus to their bilateral trade.

“I can assure my friends that you (Pakistan) can expect more and more Chinese enterprises coming into Pakistan and vice versa,” he said.

Prime Minister Aziz said the two countries had agreed to encourage their private sectors to promote mutual investment and enhance flow of goods to boost trade.

He appreciated the strides Pakistan had made in the economic field, saying the conducive investment of the country offered attractive opportunities to foreign investors.

Briefing newsmen about official talks, Pakistan Ambassador to China Salman Bashir said the ‘most important’ aspect of the talks were the “clear and unambiguous, categorical assurance by China to defend Pakistan’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity”.

Both countries would support each other’s efforts to safeguard their territorial integrity, he added.

Prime Minister Aziz informed the Chinese side about Pakistan’s efforts for peace in the region and the ongoing composite dialogue process with India to resolve their outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir.

He said the Chinese prime minister extended full support to Pakistan’s efforts to see a peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

Mr Bashir said the two leaders had institutionalized the Pakistan-China strategic partnership by providing modalities and practical mechanism for future cooperation.

He said the agreement on anti-terrorism efforts would further intensify cooperation in this area.

The ambassador said that the early harvest programme would quadruple the existing bilateral trade of nearly three billion dollars per year.

He said the conclusion of this programme was a major achievement for Pakistan and the two-way trade would see an exponential growth.

Prime Minister Aziz also offered China the energy corridor.

He said the agreements on customs cooperation and in the agriculture field would further strengthen their ties.

The agreements signed on Tuesday also included deepening of the Chinese-funded Gwadar port.

Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao and Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing signed an accord on combating terrorism, separatism and extremism.

Education Minister Javed Ashraf and his Chinese counterpart Zhou Ji signed an accord on executive programme on cooperation and exchanges in the sphere of education.

A framework agreement for naval frigates F22P was signed by Defence Production Minister Habibullah Warriach and Zhang Yunchuan, Minister for COSTIND.

Commerce Minister Humayun Akhtar Khan and Bo Xilai, Minister for MOFCOM, signed the early harvest agreement of Pakistan China free trade area. A protocol on quarantine certification of rice was signed by Food Minister Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan and Li Changjiang, Minister of AQSIQ.

A MoU on cooperation in the field of agriculture was signed by Minfal Secretary Ismail Qureshi and China’s Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei.

Food Minister Sikandar Bosan and Li Changjiang, Minister of AQSIQ, signed a protocol on quarantine certification of citrus.

An agreement on export of live animals to the Middle East and other destinations through Pakistan was signed by Mr Bosan and Mr Li Changjiang.

A Pakistan-China IT agreement was signed by IT Secretary Khalid Saeed and Wu Dawei, Vice Foreign Minister of China.

A MoU between the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan and China Scholarship Council (CSC) on the Pakistan Government-funded students education programme in China was signed by HEC chairman Dr Attaur Rehman and Madam Zhang Xiuqin, Secretary-General of China Scholarship Council.

An agreement on economic and technical cooperation was signed by adviser to the prime minister on finance Salman Shah and Bo Xilai, Minister for MOFCOM of China. Another agreement on cooperation and mutual assistance in customs matters was signed by Salman Shah and Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing.

The two countries also signed ‘Implementation rules of the agreement between Pakistan and China concerning international road transport’. Communications Minister Shamim Siddiqui and the Chinese foreign minister signed the document.

Export Promotion Bureau chairman Tariq Ikram and Wan Jiefi, Chairman CCPI, signed an agreement on cooperation between the EPB and the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT).

A MoU on the Confucius Institute between National Office for Teaching Chinese as Foreign Language (NOTCFL) and NUML was signed by Brig (retd) Aziz.

NUML Rector Ahmed Khan and Cao Guo Xing, Director-General of the Department of International Cooperation and Exchange, Ministry of Education, signed a related agreement.

The two countries also signed a MoU to begin negotiations on the free trade agreement (FTA) and on other trading issues. Commerce Minister Humayun Akhtar and Bo Xilai, Minister for MOFCOM, signed the MoU.

A MoU on strengthening of corporate entities of the two countries in manufacturing sector was signed by Privatization Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and Bo Xilai, Minister for MOFCOM.

Addendum No.1 to the agreement for development of Duddar lead zinc deposits in Balochistan for change of performing party was signed by Naseer Mengal, Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Resources, and Chen Yuan, Governor of the China Development Bank.

Salman Shah and Bo Xilai, Minister for MOFCOM, exchanged letters for the study of Pakistan-China friendship centre project.

ARRIVAL: The Chinese prime minister was accorded a warm welcome on his arrival here on Tuesday for a three-day visit. He was received by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, ministers and senior officials at the airport.

Prime Minister Aziz himself went to the airport to receive the Chinese prime minister, in a departure from routine protocol reflecting the strong and time-tested friendly relations between the two countries.

The formal welcome ceremony was held at the Prime Minister’s House.

The Chinese prime minister was accorded a 19-gun salute when he alighted from his special plane.

A contingent of Pakistan Air Force presented salute to the Chinese prime minister, while an army band played welcomed tunes on the occasion.

The airport was decorated with flags of Pakistan and China and big portraits of presidents and prime ministers of the two countries.

The route from airport to the Prime Minister’s House was also decorated with welcome banners, bunting and flags of Pakistan and China.

FRUIT EXPORT: Talking to China’s Minister for General Administration Li Changjiang, Prime Minister Aziz said Pakistan produced a variety of fruits and was now focusing on maintaining international standards to encourage their export.

Mr Aziz said Pakistan produced one of the best oranges, especially kinnoo, and expressed the hope that its export would increase.

He said Pakistan took the quarantine issue very seriously and wanted to maintain high quality of its products as it recognized their importance in enhancing export of agriculture products.

The Chinese minister informed the prime minister that he had held useful talks with Food Minister Sikandar Hayat Bosan and they had signed agreements in the livestock sector.— APP/AFP