Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif landed in China on Tuesday for a two-day official visit at Premier Li Keqiang’s invitation. This is his first trip to the neighbouring country since assuming office in April.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, Railways Minister Saad Rafique and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah are part of the delegation accompanying the premier.
He was received by top officials of the Chinese government in Beijing. During the visit, the prime minister will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.
PM Shehbaz is also scheduled to meet Chinese investors and Pakistani businessmen.
Ahead of his departure, the premier tweeted: “Honoured to be among the first few leaders to have been invited after the historic 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.
“At a time when the world is grappling with multiple challenges, Pakistan and China stand together as friends and partners.”
The prime minister said his discussions with the Chinese leadership would focus on the “revitalisation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) among many other things”.
“The second phase of CPEC promises to usher in a new era of socio-economic progress that will uplift [the] quality of our people’s lives. There is a lot to learn from [the] Chinese economic miracle,” he added.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), a high-level delegation will be accompanying the prime minister during his visit to China where he would meet President Xi Jinping and hold delegation-level talks with Premier Li.
“The visit is also expected to advance the wide-ranging bilateral cooperation agenda with the conclusion of a number of MoUs/agreements in diverse areas, and consolidate the momentum of CPEC cooperation in the wake of the 11th meeting of the CPEC Joint Cooperation Committee on Oct 27,” an official statement said.
PM’s visit to set a new milestone for CPEC: minister
Meanwhile, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said the PM’s visit to China will be an “extremely important” one, adding “it will set a new milestone for the CPEC”.
In a video message, Aurangzeb lamented that several CPEC projects were delayed during the previous government’s tenure, adding that they had now been revived by the incumbent prime minister.
She underlined that all administrative and procedural obstacles had been removed from the projects, saying “the new CPEC era is about to begin”.
Shehbaz hopes to expand trade with maiden China visit
During his visit, the premier also hopes to expand trade and investment ties with the neighbouring country by making optimal use of the second phase of the China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement.
“Pakistan can serve as the manufacturing base for China and an extension of its industrial and supply chain network,” the PM wrote in an opinion article published in Chinese newspaper Global Times on Sunday.
He also wrote that the two countries could fast-track bilateral cooperation to boost corporate farming, efficient water usage, development of hybrid seeds and high yield crops and establish cold storage chains. “This cooperation has assumed an added importance to address common concerns related to food security,” he added.
He also said the CPEC’s next phase would encompass key areas such as industry, energy, agriculture, ICT, rail and road network and developing Gwadar port as a hub of trade and transhipment, investment and regional connectivity.
“Our overall aim is to harness the potential of CPEC for Pakistan’s inclusive and sustainable growth, socioeconomic development and for improving the livelihoods of our people,” he added.