China vows to support Pakistan’s bid to improve its economy

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi reiterated the importance of China Pakistan friendship during a press conference on Saturday. He said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is an old friend of Pakistan who has always supported Pakistan. He was addressed the media after a meeting with Wang Yi, who is in Pakistan for three days.

His contributions to promoting friendship between the two countries are commendable, said Qureshi, adding that during his full schedule of meetings with our leadership, the Chinese foreign minister will meet the prime minister, president, speaker of the National Assembly and chief of army staff.

He reiterated that friendship with China is a cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy. We have the unique honour of being ‘iron brothers’, he said, adding that the government was eager and wiling to collaborate with China on CPEC, which is the fastest evolving project of the belt and road initiative to date.

CPEC is proof of how seamless and sustainable the belt and road initiative can become with the active involvement of all stakeholders in the public and private sectors, said Qureshi.

He thanked the Chinese government for its congratulatory messages to the new government.

He said that Wang Yi had extended an invitation to Prime Minister Imran Khan to visit China in November. The foreign minister said they have extended similar invitations to President Xi Jinpeng and the Chinese premier to visit Pakistan.

He said that during their meeting they had in depth discussions on many important issues, such as strengthening bilateral ties.

We will maintain close coordination on regional and global issues, he said. “China is our all-weather friend and we can always rely on China’s support at various international forums,” he said.

We have made substantive progress on CPEC and I reassure the foreign minister that it is of immense strategic and national importance to Pakistan, said Qureshi. We will ensure that ongoing projects are implemented at the earliest and explore new avenues of cooperation under CPEC, he said.

I have discussed with the state counselor our government’s priorities, which include poverty alleviation, socioeconomic development, rooting out corruption and job creation, which will be incorporated in our future joint endeavours, he said.

I also assured him that the security for Chinese nationals working on CPEC is our top priority, he added. He went on to explain that law enforcement agencies are working hard to create a secure working environment for Chinese nationals in Pakistan.

The foreign minister said China has always supported Pakistan’s efforts to combat terrorism, adding that his Chinese counterpart had highlighted Pakistan’s immense contribution in fighting terrorism and acknowledged Pakistan’s role in countering terrorism.

I urged the foreign minister that we may work together while enhancing our trade cooperation, said Qureshi, speaking about the potential of exporting Pakistani goods to China.

“I conveyed to him that Pakistan greatly appreciates China’s consistent support,” he said, adding that the country has progressed in many initiatives due to China’s support.

Wang Yi said it is a pleasure to visit Pakistan and congratulated the new government on behalf of China. He said he believes the Imran Khan-led government will lead the people of Pakistan in working with one heart and one mind in overcoming difficulties and towards the vision of a new Pakistan.

We will stand by Pakistan as a good neighbor, good friend and good partner, he assured. China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic and cooperation partners, he said, adding that the relationship is built on mutual understanding and trust.

Regardless of political party changes it is unshakable, he said, reiterating the ‘iron brothers’ analogy.

Our relationship has withstood the test of time and international changes, said Wang Yi, adding that it is strong and unbreakable.

I have come to Pakistan to make contact with the new government and make notes on all aspects of financial cooperation, he said. I want to ensure a good beginning for our bilateral relationship.

He applauded the new government for keeping the relationship a cornerstone of its foreign policy and assured it that China would continue to keep Pakistan a priority in its own foreign policy.

I had critical discussions with Qureshi and I agree with what he is saying, he said. Wang Yi said that he can sum up the discussions in 10 points.

He spoke about strategic trust and cooperation. The Chinese foreign minister said they welcome Prime Minister Imran Khan to China in November and are ready to invite him to the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation next year.

We have agreed to realise development of CPEC and that the projects must be completed on schedule, he said, adding that they will also consult about the future of corridor and the future direction of cooperation.

We will strengthen industrial capacity and livelihood development in Pakistan, said the Chinese foreign minister, who added that priority will be given to the western areas of the country.

We have agreed to strive for greater balance in two-way trade, he said, adding that China will encourage imports from Pakistan and send more trade promotion teams to the country. This will also broaden market access for competitive and cultural products from Pakistan in China, he explained.

He said the free trade agreement between Pakistan and China must be upgraded and that they have agreed to engage in industrial capacity cooperation. Will work to help increase self-driven development in Pakistan, said Wang Yi, adding that job creation, increasing exports and including Pakistan into the international market at a faster pace will be on the agenda.

He also said that they will focus on development oriented cooperation. He promised Chinese assistance in agriculture, education, healthcare and the provision of water.

The Chinese foreign minister said that they will also be deepening defence and security cooperation. Meetings between the two militaries will be increased, he said, expressing China’s continued support to helping Pakistan fight terrorism.

We will also increase our sharing of practices of governance, he said. “China will host seminars on poverty reduction and promoting economic development for Pakistan,” he said, adding that they are also ready to organise demonstrations projects for poverty reduction in Pakistan.

We must expand our mutual visits between the two countries for young people, said Wang Yi, who also vowed to improve visa facilitation for Pakistanis visiting China.

We will also strengthen cooperation in international and regional affairs, such as the Afghanistan reconciliation process, he explained. He spoke about ushering in a new type of international relations and taking the partnership between the countries to new heights.

During the question and answer session that followed the foreign ministers’ speeches, Qureshi said that the meeting was both fruitful and productive.

“The beauty of such an interaction is that since we have a seamless bilateral relationship we waste no time discussing concerns, because we have no concerns,” he said. “We spend time on building an architecture for future cooperation,” he explained.

Bilateral issues, regional and international issues were among the items discussed by the two foreign ministers and, according to Qureshi, the two countries have the same views on almost all issues.

We have discussed that we need a strategic dialogue between China and Pakistan, he said, explaining that the details would be worked out at the earliest. He also spoke about the trade opportunities discussed during the meeting and said China will provide subsidies to encourage exports and correct imbalance in bilateral trade

We are also discussing how to expand our industrial base and to relocate industries that are labour intensive, he said.

To a question on whether CPEC is focusing exclusively on infrastructure and has worsened the debt situation Pakistan is facing, Wang Xi said CPEC is a major economic cooperation project.

China values friendship and when we were in need, Pakistan helped us, he said. China wants to reciprocate and support Pakistan’s development. He said 22 cooperation projects were undertaken as part of CPEC, of which nine have been completed and 13 are under way. There has been investment of $19 billion and one to two percentage points of growth for Pakistan, he explained.

There have also been 70,000 job opportunities created in Pakistan, which is a tangible benefit of the project, said Wang Yi.

CPEC is for Pakistan as an entire country, not a specific group, he said, adding that the corridor has been designed to benefit all Pakistani people. Early projects focus on energy and infrastructure development because they were the needs of Pakistan at the time, he said.

Another reason for such projects is that they are the strength needed for industrialisation. In the absence of electricity and roads there is no logistical basis to support development manufacturing, Wang Yi explained. These projects have helped unlock the development potential of Pakistan, he said.