Prime Minister Imran Khan, in his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on Friday, called for greater attention to tackling climate change and poverty as Pakistan and China enter the next phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The prime minister appreciated the significance of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), saying it "marks a new and distinct phase in the onward march of nations in the world along the path of globalisation".
"The presence of so many world leaders today is proof that we choose hope over despair and cooperation over confrontation. 122 states and 49 international organisations have signed onto the BRI's vision and this is a historic and monumental development," he pointed out.
"The BRI offers a model of partnership, collaboration, connectivity and shared prosperity," the prime minister told the audience. "Pakistan is proud to have partnered with China in this transformative endeavour. We have been among BRI's earliest and most enthusiastic proponents," he said.
"The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, one of the BRI's major components ─ and one of its earliest manifestations ─ has made substantial progress. Pakistan's energy supplies have increased massively, critical infrastructure gaps are being plugged, Gwadar ─ once a small fishing village ─ is transforming rapidly into a commercial hub. The Gwadar airport will be the largest in our country," he told his audience.
He informed the audience that special economic zones being set up along the CPEC offer investment opportunities for Pakistani, Chinese and foreign entrepreneurs, and invited interested parties to "avail Pakistan's liberal foreign investment regime and participate in our economy; in particular infrastructure, railways, dams, IT and manufacturing."
"Together, Pakistan and China are entering the next phase of CPEC, with greater emphasis on socioeconomic uplift," he said, adding that the next phase would be "supplemented" by the signing of an expanded Pakistan-China Free Trade Agreement.
He added that Pakistan wants to promote cooperation with China in agriculture, health and education, and called for joint efforts towards addressing impediments on the way to sustainable growth.
The prime minister said that Pakistan and China are entering the next phase of CPEC and are focusing on socio-economic uplift, poverty alleviation, agricultural cooperation and industrial development.
"We are changing Pakistan's economic landscape and, God willing, the destiny of our people. I want to thank China and its leadership for their unwavering support for Pakistan," he said.
Prime Minister Imran suggested that, as the BRI takes on a more concrete shape, world leaders direct their efforts and focus onto the people of their countries by addressing impediments in the path towards sustainable growth.
He suggested collaboration on five points: mitigating the adverse effects of climate change by launching an ambitious tree-planting project; establishing a BRI tourism corridor; establishing an office for anti-corruption cooperation; creating a poverty alleviation fund; further trade liberalisation and encouraging private sector investment.
Chinese President Xi Jinping in his keynote address at the three-day forum said that the joint construction of the Belt and Road has opened up new space for the world's economic growth, Radio Pakistan reported.
He said that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) had also created a new platform to boost international trade and investment, expand new practices to optimise global economic governance, and make new contributions to improving the well-being of the people of all countries.
The Chinese president said that Beijing would negotiate and sign high-standard Free Trade Agreements with more countries, and that it would allow foreign investors to operate businesses in more sectors with a controlling or full stake.
He also said that China would work with other parties to promote a coalition of sustainable cities and an international coalition for green development under BRI.
Later in the evening, Prime Minister Imran attended a welcome banquet hosted by President Xi in honour of world leaders attending the second Belt and Road Forum at the Great Hall in Beijing.
PM's agenda in China
The prime minister arrived in China yesterday on a four-day official visit. According to the Foreign Office, he will attend a world leaders’ meeting representing around 38 countries. He will also speak in the first session of the leaders’ meeting, and hold meetings with several heads of states/governments and corporate and business leaders on the sidelines of the BRF.
In addition to participating in the Belt and Road Forum, the premier will hold bilateral meetings with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. Pakistan and China will also sign several memoranda of understanding and agreements to enhance bilateral cooperation in diverse areas.
After the forum, the prime minister will address a Pakistan business and investment forum on April 28. Prominent Pakistani and Chinese businessmen will attend the event.
The prime minister will also participate in the Beijing International Horticultural Exhibition along with President Xi and other world leaders.
According to Radio Pakistan, the premier has also held a meeting with World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva on the sidelines of the BRF.