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Aziz in China on mission to boost ties

December 15, 2004

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BEIJING, Dec 14: Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz arrived here on Tuesday for talks with Chinese leaders on bilateral and regional issues and to explore possibilities of greater economic cooperation.

The prime minister is scheduled to hold official talks at the Great Hall of the People on Wednesday afternoon. Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao will host a banquet for Mr Aziz and his delegation on Wednesday. Mr Aziz will call on the Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Mr Jia Qinglin, and President Hu Jintao on Thursday afternoon," officials accompanying the prime minister told Dawn.

They said the prime minister also planned to meet Chairman of the China Enterprises Confederation Chen Jinhua and officials of the China State Construction Engineering Corporation, China National Machinery and Equipment Group, Shenhua Group, SinoChem Group, China Harbour and Engineering Corporation, Haier Group and China Metallurgical Construction Corporation.

The prime minister would fly to Shanghai, China's key industrial and commercial port city, they said, adding that apart from attending a string of formal meetings, he would lay the foundation stone of the consulate general of Pakistan.

On his arrival at Beijing's Capital Airport on Tuesday night, Mr Aziz, who is accompanied by seven ministers and a number of legislators, was received at the airport by China's Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Wu Dawai.

From the airport, the prime minister's motorcade headed straight for the Diaoyutai state guest house, for no formal meetings were scheduled for the day. On Wednesday, eight back-to-back meetings are scheduled during which he will speak to officials of public sector utilities and business groups.

"Federal ministers will meet their Chinese counterparts and, like the prime minister, explore possibilities of enhanced economic cooperation. At present, trade between the two countries stand at $2.17 billion," they said.

The ministers accompanying Mr Aziz are: Minister for Food and Agriculture Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan, Minister for Industries and Production Jahangir Khan Tareen, Minister for Overseas Pakistanis and Manpower Ghulam Sarwar Khan, Minister for Science and Technology Nouraiz Shakoor Khan, Minister for Tourism Dr Syed Ghazi Gulab Jamal, Minister for Water and Power Liaquat Ali Jatoi, and Minister of State for Health Begum Shahnaz Shaikh. The adviser to the prime minister on finance, Dr Salman Shah, is also in the delegation.

DEPARTURE: Speaking to reporters in Islamabad before leaving for Beijing, the prime minister described Pakistan and China as 'strategic partners' and said his visit would give a boost to diplomatic, political and economic ties between the two countries, adds APP.

He praised China for its support in the growth and development in Pakistan. "Pakistan and China are close friends, we are strategic partners and our relations transcend many areas," he said.

"We will discuss political, economic, diplomatic and other issues so that we can take our friendship to greater heights," he added. The prime minister referred to the Chinese support in the growth and development in Pakistan and said the Chinese companies' investments here were increasing and the two-way trade and investment ties were on the rise.

The relations, he added, would get a boost during his trip. Mr Aziz said a new consulate in Shanghai was being opened which would be another milestone in the development of relations between the two countries.

Responding to a question, he said Pakistan and China were strategic partners and had played a major moderating influence in this part of the world. "We see China growing as a great power and our friendship with them, therefore, takes even more importance," he said.

The prime minister said Pakistan and China both believed in moderation, peace and economic growth and 'there is a total identity of views which will help us expand our relations even further'.