Prime Minister Imran Khan met Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Sunday, the last day of his four-day official visit.
Prior to his meeting with President Xi, the prime minister and his delegation met Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and discussed bilateral issues and regional matters. Delegation-level talks were held with both Chinese leaders.
A diplomat speaking to Dawn earlier said that the discussions between Prime Minister Imran and President Xi will be very specific about what has to be done by the two countries under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). He added that industrial cooperation would be the most important element of the next stage of CPEC.
Prime Minister Imran and Premier Keqiang also signed the Main Line-1 railways agreement today, Radio Pakistan reported.
Under the project, a double railway track will be laid from Peshawar to Karachi. The speed of trains on the new track will be around 160 kilometres per hour, according to Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid.
After his meetings with Chinese leadership, the prime minister attended the Pak-China Trade Investment Forum.
Meeting with President Xi
Prime Minister Imran Khan met President Xi accompanied by ministers and a senior-level delegation. Reaffirming the ‘All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership’ between Pakistan and China, the two leaders exchanged views on the entire gamut of bilateral relations in a warm and cordial atmosphere, stated a press release issued by the prime minister’s spokesperson.
They affirmed the resolve to further strengthen their strategic cooperative partnership in all fields including political, security, economic and trade, and people-to-people exchanges.
Prime Minister Imran Khan thanked President Xi for the warm and gracious welcome accorded to him in China, and for China’s steadfast support to Pakistan on all issues.
The prime minister also reaffirmed Pakistan’s support to China on all issues of its core interest and congratulated President Xi on the successful convening of the 2nd BRF, which the press release described as a “practical manifestation of his [Xi’s] far-reaching vision”, and highlighted its significance as an important international platform for connectivity and sharing of experience among the BRI participating countries.
He reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to CPEC and highlighted the foray into new areas of agriculture, industrial development and socioeconomic uplift in the next phase of the project.
President Xi Jinping reiterated China’s unwavering support to Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and appreciated the government’s agenda for socioeconomic development and people-centred progress. He affirmed that China-Pakistan ties would continue to acquire greater strength and deepen practical cooperation in the time to come, the statement said.
The two sides also exchanged views on the regional situation, including in Afghanistan and South Asia. President Xi further expressed China’s appreciation for Pakistan’s sustained and successful efforts in the fight against terrorism and to create a peaceful neighbourhood.
Both sides expressed satisfaction over the close cooperation between the two countries at multilateral fora and resolved to further deepen communication and coordination at all levels.
They also agreed to keep the momentum of high-level exchanges between the two countries.
Meeting with Premier Keqiang
Ministers and senior officials participated in the meeting between Prime Minister Imran and Premier Li at the conclusion of the BRF.
Both leaders reaffirmed the time-tested and strong friendship between Pakistan and China and exchanged views on the myriad facets of bilateral engagement, a statement from the prime minister’s spokesperson said.
The two sides exchanged views on bilateral collaboration in the context of CPEC and prospects of further deepening economic linkages.
The prime minister underscored the importance of CPEC for Pakistan’s economy and noted with satisfaction its expansion into new areas of development – including industrial development; livelihood projects; social uplift; and agriculture in line with the priorities of government. He hoped that Chinese investment in SEZs would expand Pakistan’s industrial base and assist in diversifying its export basket, the statement said.
Underlining the steady growth of bilateral cooperation since the prime minister’s last visit to China in November 2018, Premier Li Keqiang expressed satisfaction at the positive momentum of CPEC projects.
He hoped that the conclusion of the 2nd phase of the China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement (FTA), would further boost trade and economic relations between the two countries.
The two sides agreed to further deepen the political, security, economic, education, science & technology, cultural, and people-to-people relations. They also agreed to maintain the existing momentum of high level exchanges between the two countries.
A signing ceremony for the second phase of the FTA was held, in which the following MoUs/agreements were signed/exchanged:
Second phase of China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement
Declaration for completion of preliminary design of Phase-I for upgradation of ML-1 and establishment of Havelian Dry Port under CPEC
MoU on cooperation in the field of marine sciences between the China Geological Survey (CGS), Ministry of Natural Resources of China, the Institute of Oceanography, Ministry of Science and Technology
MoU between CIDCA and Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform on implementation of the projects under the joint working group of CPEC on socioeconomic development
China-Pakistan Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement
Rashakai SEZ joint venture and license agreement between KPEZMDC and CRBC
‘Pakistan is the future’
Later in the day, Prime Minister Imran addressed a lunch held by the Pak-China Trade Investment Forum in his honour.
The premier lauded the 2nd Belt and Road Forum held in Beijing, saying that he believes it has “become much more than the Chinese leadership had imagined”.
Referring to his keynote address to the forum, in which he touched upon tackling climate change and other socioeconomic issues, the prime minister said that Pakistan is among the countries “taking revolutionary steps” in this regard.
Talking about his meeting with President Xi, he said, “I am happy we talked about getting help from China in science and technology. We want to establish an elite university for eight subjects where china has excelled.”
The premier said that peace in Afghanistan would help facilitate increased connectivity between Pakistan and Central Asia. He also touched upon ties with India and hoped for better relations after the Indian election concludes.
“Pakistan is the future,” he told investors at the event, assuring them of ease in investing and doing business in the country.
‘Next stage of CPEC’
Prime Minister Imran began the bilateral component of his trip to China with a meeting with Vice President Wang Qishan in which he was accompanied by his delegation.
The bilateral discussions are focused on the next stage of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in which the Chinese government has agreed to adjust the project according to the priorities of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government, which assumed office last year after the general elections.
In what is being described as the “next stage of CPEC”, industrial cooperation in the shape of development of special economic zones would come into spotlight and private sector investment and joint ventures would be encouraged.
In an interview with Radio Pakistan, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan, Lijian Zhao, said that nine areas have been identified for developing SEZs across Pakistan, with the Rashakai, Quaid-i-Azam Industrial Park and Dhabeji SEZs being top priorities. He expressed confidence that groundbreaking on the Rashakai SEZ will be performed soon after the prime minister returns from his trip to China.
Beijing will, in the next stage of CPEC, also commit to social sector cooperation for which it will be investing $1 billion in 27 education, health, agriculture, water and irrigation, human resource development and poverty alleviation projects. An agreement on social sector cooperation will be signed during PM Khan’s visit.
Moreover, the second stage Pak-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will also be signed under which China will open up 90 per cent of its market for Pakistani goods in an effort to address trade imbalance. Pakistan’s trade deficit with China last year stood at $9.7bn. China, the largest trade partner of Pakistan, was then exporting goods worth $11.458bn to Pakistan while Pakistani exports to China were valued at $1.744bn.
It is estimated that the new FTA would increase Pakistani exports by $500 million. The agreement is being concluded after protracted negotiations spanning over nearly seven years.