Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing said on Thursday that China and Pakistan were true friends and brother sharing weal and woe and the cooperation between the two countries in the fight against COVID-19 was a model of international cooperation.
“China and Pakistan are true friends and brothers sharing weal and woe. The cooperation between China and Pakistan in the fight against COVID-19 is a model of international cooperation. Our all-weather strategic and cooperative partnership is consolidated in addressing this common challenge.”
Yao Jing made these remarks in an exclusive interview with China Economic Net, a leading economic news portal in China, during which he spoke in length on issues of China-Pakistan mutual support during the COVID-19 pandemic, progress on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), achievements in business and trade cooperation, and joint fight against the locust swarms etc.
He remarked that China was deeply touched by the firm support it received from Pakistan in its effort to curb the epidemic. President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan sent letters of solidarity to President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang respectively.
President Arif Alvi paid a special visit to China in March this year. Prime Minister Imran Khan made a phone call to President Xi Jinping to express his support for China. Foreign Minister Qureshi held two telephone conversations with State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
The National Assembly and the Senate of Pakistan respectively passed resolutions to support China’s fight against COVID-19. Pakistan had tried its best to mobilize anti-epidemic materials nationwide to support China.
Many Pakistani people, including Pakistani students studying in China, expressed their support in various ways, reflecting the rock-solid friendship between China and Pakistan.
In return, after COVID-19 broke out in Pakistan, China rushed for assistance. The Chinese central and local governments, the military, enterprises, the Red Cross Society of China, and civil society continued to provide Pakistan with urgently needed anti-epidemic materials, including large quantities of testing kits, masks, ventilators, PPEs, medicines and cash to assist Pakistan in establishing a new isolation hospital.
China has also held video conferences with Pakistan and sent medical teams to Pakistan for experience sharing and disease prevention and control.
Meanwhile, China and Pakistan have overcome difficulties to promote the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, and maintained good communication and cooperation in international and regional affairs.
The Chinese ambassador thanked Pakistan for recognizing outstanding contribution of China to international anti-epidemic cooperation and its firm opposition to stigmatize China by certain countries and added, “I have every reason to believe that our friendship and cooperation will grow stronger in post COVID-19 era.”
To a question about how did CPEC support livelihood of Pakistani people and open to the third party, he replied that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was a major and pilot project of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). “It has achieved fruitful results in development of Gwadar Port, energy, infrastructure, Special Economic Zones (SEZs) over the past six years.”
According to incomplete statistics, the number of Pakistani employees directly employed by the CPEC project reached over 75,000.
Since early this year, both sides have worked closely to mitigate the challenge of COVID-19 outbreak on the sustainable development of the CPEC. There is ZERO infection in CPEC projects due to strict measures taken by both sides. The Chinese companies have not withdrawn themselves nor did they laid-off local staff.
Meanwhile, progress is on the way. Joint working groups on energy, agriculture, social and economic cooperation, science and technology have convened video conference respectively to review the progress.
The energy projects guaranteed 1/3 of the electrical supply in Pakistan. Phase II of KKH is almost ready for traffic. The integrated test and commissioning inspection for Lahore Orange Line Project have been successfully completed and passed.
The construction of the new airport in Gwadar comes to the second phase. The construction of Karot Hydra power station is in full swing. The two sides kept discussion on ML-1.
Yao Jing said, “We are happy to hear that the Pakistan government has allowed transit trade of Afghan bulk cargo of wheat, sugar and fertilizer to go through Gwadar Port.”
In the next stage, both sides will focus more on industrial, social and economic cooperation, he said and added, “We are confident that CPEC projects will give a fresh impetus to Pakistan’s economy and help to stabilize its financial condition in the midst of COVID-19.”
About role of CPFTA Phase-II to strengthen Pakistan’s economy during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said the pandemic has severely disturbed the global trade, China-Pakistan trade cooperation was affected as well. However, he expressed his complete confidence in the future of the bilateral trade cooperation, especially because of the CPFTA Phase-II.
The CPFTA Phase-II has taken effect from Jan 1, 2020, the level of liberalization between the two countries increased more than double, tariffs have been reduced sharply, the proportion of the tariff line of mutual zero tariff products increases from 35% to 75%.
Under the CPFTA Phase-II, 90% of China’s imports from Pakistan will enjoy duty-free treatment, while Pakistan will enjoy zero tariff on 67% of its trade volume.
The duty-free product includes cotton yarn, textiles, nuts and household accessories. China will also include the advantageous exports of Pakistan such as leather, clothing, shoes, hats, aquatic products and so on. That will give a huge boost to the Pakistan’s export to China.
Moreover, it will help to stimulate the trade and investment linkage between China and Pakistan, attracting more Chinese enterprises as well as other foreign investors to invest in Pakistan, so as to promote the development of export-oriented industries in Pakistan and expand its exports.
He said, “This pandemic will pass and the world economy and global trade will recover. The huge market demand accumulated during the pandemic will be fully released and the bilateral trade will rebound strongly.”
Regarding China’s efforts for Pakistan’s debt relief, he said that over the years, China had carried out financial cooperation with developing countries based on the principle of equal-footed consultation, mutual benefit and common development.
“Our goal is to help these countries to develop its economy and work for implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. China never presses countries in difficulties for debt payment,” he said.
Due to the spreading pandemic, developing countries, especially low-income countries, are facing greater challenges. China upholds vision of a community with a shared future for mankind and follows the right approach to justice and interests.It stands together with the people of developing countries. China has actively participated in international cooperation on debt relief.
Recently, G20 members adopted a Debt Service Suspension Initiative for Poorest Countries. China supported Pakistan to be included in the Initiative.
China hopes G20 members can work together to implement the outcomes of the Extraordinary G20 Leaders’ Summit on COVID-19, and help low-income countries properly address debt risks.
Yao Jing said that China was ready to communicate and coordinate with Pakistan via bilateral channel, and to help Pakistan to concentrate resources to fight against the epidemic and stabilize the economy.
About cooperation between China and Pakistan on social-economic development, he said that Pakistan and China had a tradition of mutual understanding and mutual support. In past years, China had assisted to build infrastructure projects such as Karakoram Highway, Pakistan Sports Center, China-Pakistan Friendship Center, Gwadar Faquer School.
“Now, both sides are working hard to implement Gwadar East Bay Expressway, Gwadar New International Airport, and schools in the former FATA region,”he added.
He said that nowadays, development of CPEC had facilitated fast-track implementation of our social economic cooperation. In April 2019, China and Pakistan signed a MOU on social economic cooperation under the CPEC framework.
After consultation with Pakistani government, both sides identified six key areas of cooperation as agriculture, education, medical care, poverty alleviation, water supply and vocational training.
The first batch of fast-track implementation of 17 projects had started within one year of the signing of the MOU. Up to now, 11 of the 17 projects have started or got the PC-1 approved, and the other 6 projects are expected to get the PC-1 in the first half of this year.
Among these projects, the Gwadar Hospital and the Vocational Technical School have started construction. The follow-up projects include providing Pakistan with 10,000 sets of solar-powered lighting equipment, 100 sets of water purification, 800 sets of solar water pump facilities, and medical equipment for 30 hospitals and teaching equipment for 50 vocational and technical schools.
The establishment of joint agricultural laboratories and demonstration stations in each province of Pakistan is also in the pipeline. The implementation of the projects is committed to improving the well-being of the Pakistani people, and injecting momentum into the realization of sustainable development of Pakistan.
Regarding the progress of the construction of the special economic zone, he said that industrial development was essential to Pakistan’s self-relied development and improvement of balance of payment. Nowadays, the global industrial structure was facing new adjustments. Some Chinese companies are seeking to invest or relocating related industries in other regions.
“China and Pakistan have worked together to expand industrial cooperation as the main focus of CPEC in the next stage,” he added.
There was some progress after years of hard work of both sides. For example, the Franchise Agreement of Rashakai SEZ was signed in April 2019 under the witness of leaders of both countries. China Road & Bridge Corporation then conducted construction drawing design, funding and tender invitation.
In December 2019, the Pakistani side started supporting works for peripheral roads, water and electricity supply and the Chinese side started to set up the makeshift camp. So far, all relevant work was moving forward steadily despite of the challenge of COVID-19.
Many Chinese companies had expressed their interest to make investment in the SEZ. Allma Iqbal SEZ is moving even faster. 11 Chinese enterprises had entered this SEZ, including Times Ceramic, Deli Household Glass Co. and Health Capsule, which covered a wide range of industries, such as manufacturing, chemical engineering and smelting. China and Pakistan also maintained close communication on the development of Dhabeji SEZ.
At the same time, CPEC cooperation had also facilitated industrial cooperation between China and Pakistan in other areas. Now, there were over 400 Chinese enterprises operating in Pakistan, covering areas of IT, home appliances, finance, agriculture and e-commerce, etc.
For example, Changan Auto built a joint venture in Karachi with Master Motors. Double Star Tire and Chaoyang Tire built joint ventures respectively with MSD Tire, Service Co. Ant Fiancial Services Group partnered with Easypaisa to develop a Pakistani version of Alipay. Yaxing Steel built a joint venture with Al-Haj.
“I firmly believe that with improvement of business environment and more preferential policies put in place in Pakistan, China-Pakistan industrial cooperation will be blessed with a bright future,” he said.
About China’s plan to help Pakistan to get rid of the locust crisis, he said, “We noted that the locust plague outbreak in Pakistan early this year has severely affected the country’s agricultural production and food security.”
In February, the Chinese government sent a work team of locust experts to Pakistan when China was still in critical stage of fighting against COVID-19.
The Chinese expert team had extensive field investigation to locusts affected areas in Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab provinces.
They came up with an informative package of policy suggestion on comprehensive prevention and control for Pakistan.
Later on, the Chinese government assisted 300 tons of malathion and 50 air-powered high-efficiency remote sprayers to Pakistan by the end of April to counter locust plague.
When President Arif Alvi visited China in March, Chinese President Xi Jinping told him that China would continue to provide support and assistance to Pakistan in the fight against locusts.
During the visit, both countries signed an MOU on strengthening cooperation in prevention and control of plant pests and diseases.
Under the MOU, China and Pakistan will jointly establish a center for sustainable management of crop pests and diseases in Pakistan. The mission of the center will focus on cooperation in plant protection, including monitoring and early warning, R&D, demonstration and extension, mutual recognition of standards, personnel training, and emergency response.
Now, both agriculture authorities in China and Pakistan are engaged with each other to implement the MOU and strengthen our cooperation to build the sustainable and comprehensive capability for locust control.