ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday said it would not seek rescheduling of about $2.7bn Chinese loans due for repayment this year but expected a good economic package, including expansion of the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to a next level.
“We will give you very good news on return,” said minister for planning and focal person on the CPEC Khusro Bakhtiar before taking off to Beijing with Prime Minister Imran Khan on his first, four-day official visit to China. Without going into details, he said China had made tremendous success in fighting corruption and white-collar crimes and some agreements were expected in this regard.
Prime Minister Imran Khan separately told Chinese journalists that he hoped the scale of Chinese partnership would help Pakistan bridge current account deficit and build foreign exchange reserves. He said his government has been working on two paths, including an IMF programme and support from friendly countries.
He said Saudi Arabia has been very generous with its support and hoped a similar request to the United Arab Emirates would yield good news over the next few days. He said the Chinese support would also help a lot because then Pakistan would not have to seek big IMF loan that may attract tough conditionalities which ultimately lead to inflation, squeeze the economy and put additional burden on the people.
Minister who flew with PM Imran for four-day visit to China promises ‘very good news’ on return home
Speaking at a news conference, Mr Bakhtiar said the visit was not based on ‘expectations’ but ‘needs and priorities’ as the CPEC was set to enter the next phase and Pakistan wanted to ensure technology transfer, relocation of industry into Pakistan, increase exports, reduce poverty, encourage foreign investment and learn how to fight while-collar corruption.
He said Pakistan expected technology transfer from China in many areas particularly cellular telecommunication and textiles, but added that the private sector would have to play a greater role.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said Pakistan faced double challenge, adding that “we do not have employment opportunities and the labour we have is not skilled enough to benefit from industrial activities” as the CPEC moves into the next phase. Therefore, he said the minister for education had been entrusted to ensure that skill development was a major part of our education policy.
The planning minister said Prime Minister Khan will have meetings with President Xi Jinping, Prime Minister Li Keqiang, corporations and businesses chiefs and visit Shanghai Expo along with President Xi and meet other heads of states and world leaders on the sidelines.
He said one of the priorities of the visit was to expand and widen the scope of CPEC that was an integrated and bilateral structure at present so that true investment should be human capital and social development for which a new joint working group would be created on the social sector.
In addition, a framework agreement on agriculture would be signed to create another joint working group on the pattern of various joint working groups on energy and other sectors. He said China had a $12.5 trillion economy and had $1.8tr worth of imports from the world in a $4tr total trade.
Mr Bakhtiar said Pakistan now wanted to grab at least one per cent of China’s imports that would help Pakistan boost its exports by $18bn. Secondly, China was now in the process of relocating about $400bn worth of its labour-intensive industry and Pakistan was discussing with China to see if 10pc of this industry could be relocated that would result in $40bn investment and boost exports substantially.
He said Pakistan’s imports from China currently stood at about $18bn and almost $5bn import substitution could be easily achieved as an outcome of the visit. Also, it was Prime Minister Imran Khan’s priority to learn from Chinese success story of pulling 400 million people out of poverty in the recent past and the two sides would sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) and a framework agreement in this direction.
He said Pakistan was also looking into extensive cooperation in the agriculture sector with China which had achieved higher agriculture yield, including livestock, fisheries and value-added chain. “China is a gateway to prosperity and we want to open a number of gates with China because we have not been able to capitalise on our friendliest relation with such a great economic power next door.”
Mr Bakhtiar said with the signing of an MOU on Rashakai Special Industrial Zone in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during the visit, the two countries would be entering the next phase of CPEC by fast-track development of Gwadar Port and the associated blue economy to realise the true transshipment potential of Gwadar of which setting up of an oil city and oil refinery was also a part.
He said the two sides have started initial consultations on the agriculture sector cooperation which was one of the key areas of the CPEC but could not see any progress in the past because the PML-N government had given top priority to energy and infrastructure sectors, followed by industrial and agricultural cooperation in that order.
Pakistan expects bilateral cooperation to focus on the vertical increase in productivity of existing crops, transfer of knowledge and technologies, seed and plant protection as well disease control, value addition and marketing of agri-products, including dairy, livestock, and fisheries also through joint ventures in value addition, cold chain management for fruits and vegetables, marketing and branding.
Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2018