KARACHI: The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is about to shift gears and enter its next phase as the industrial working group on Special Economic Zones (SEZs) is going to finalise its recommendations on Tuesday and decide which SEZ will begin first.

Towards that end, a team from China International Engineering Consulting Corporation (CIECC) arrived in Karachi and began a round of consultations with provincial authorities as preparation for the final round to be held in Islamabad early next week.

Also read: CPEC SEZs: myth and reality

The CIECC is a state-owned consulting firm that will carry the final recommendations from its meetings in Pakistan back to the National Development Reform Commission (NDRC) in Beijing.

The first round of consultations with provincial authorities began in Karachi on Thursday at an event organised by the Sindh Board of Investment at Avari Towers. “The only missing piece is the right policy to encourage the transfer of industries” from China to the SEZs being built in Pakistan, said Naheed Memon, chair of the board.

Details of the package of incentives that is being finalised with the team from CIECC were not made available during the event. “The sixth meeting of the Joint Coordination Committee of the CPEC had identified steel, pharmaceuticals and chemicals as the first round of industries to be transferred to Pakistan,” Ms Memon said.

Du Zhenli, director at CIECC and leader of the team visiting Pakistan, said he had come to “share the experience of development of industrial parks” with his counterparts in Pakistan. CIECC has extensive experience in building industrial parks in China and other countries.

“It is very important to know the vision and situation of Pakistan, and their requirements,” he said in a short interaction with Dawn. “The investment environment is very important, including soft and hard environment,” he added. He emphasised that different industries have different requirements, and each zone “must follow its own path”.

The soft environment includes policies as well as a “good environment for working and living”, he said, and underlined that this is particularly important where international cooperation is concerned. The hard environment includes transport, water, energy and other infrastructure.

The event was addressed by Mr Wang Yu, Chinese consul general in Karachi, and the commercial consular from the Chinese consulate, who gave a brief overview of the One Belt One Road vision of China.

Nine SEZs are listed on the CPEC website, which will be built once the recommendations are finalised during this round of consultations.

Published in Dawn, October 13th, 2017