KASHGAR: We believe that enhanced road and air links between Pakistan and China, construction of a railroad and fibre optic link, and establishment of oil and gas pipelines will lead to the revival of the Silk Road.”
Pakistan Ambassador to China Akram Zaki said, this in his opening remarks at Pakistan-China Business Forum, aiming to enhance economic integration with emphasis on broadening border trade between the two countries further, on the sidelines of the 5-day Kashgar, Central and South Asia Commodity Fair.
The Forum was largely attended including Commissioner Kashgar Prefecture former Senator and Pakistan Ambassador to China Akram Zaki, Chief Executive Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDPA) Tariq Puri and Vice Commissioner Kashghar Prefecture Wang Yangzi.
Akram Zaki said, “Today, in the seminar key departments of the Kashgar Prefecture Administration dealing with port management, foreign trade, customs, transit traffic, taxation, banking, and foreign affairs are present.
“So are CCPIT and Chambers of Commerce. There is enthusiastic participation from Pakistan as well. As we see delegations of TDAP, FPCCI, Pakistan-China Business and Investment Council, Institute of Policy Studies, Islamabad Stock Exchange and Pakistani businessmen attending this forum”.
He said although the trade between the two countries is growing, however the border trade between Pakistan and China is a small fraction of the overall volume.
He said that even before the formation of the Attabad Lake, the Karakorum Highway was not in a good shape and that is why it was being repaired and upgraded.
“The Attabad Lake disaster has further reduced this trade. We should therefore continue to take remedial measures. Our border trade consists of basic commodities.
“We have a grand vision for creating multiple, trade-transport -energy corridors between Pakistan and China so that this region can be connected to South, West and Central Asia, but first thing first. We must drain the lake and realign the road,” he noted.
He said “We welcome the Chinese Government’s policy of Western development under which Kashgar is being built as the Shenzhen of this region.”
Pakistan, he said too has its own vision of bilateral and regional connectivity which fits into Chinese plans.
A prefeasibility for a 411 mile rail link between Pakistan’s town of Havelian and Khunjerab at a cost of US $ 10 billion has already been done. In December last year, Rayyan Air, a Pakistani charter airline, inaugurated the first Islamabad-Kashgar 90 minute cargo flight. This sets a new trend for shipment of cargo between Pakistan and China through this region. The commodities shipped by air are also available to Central Asia, he added.
“We are of the view that transit trade of goods and services through Pakistan would greatly reduce logistic costs for its neighbours trading with the Gulf, Africa, Europe and South Asia. The location of Gwadar, which is 240 miles from the state of Hormuz is important for China and Pakistan. The port is ideally situated for receipts, dispatch, processing of crude oil, gas, and LNG for shipment to Southeast Asia and far East,” he said.
Right now, he said that the Khunjerab Port does not have adequate screening mechanism and customs officers have to check every truck manually.
“We should also set up integrated border management mechanisms. A first step in this direction could be the establishment of passport and visa offices in Kashgar or near the border towns so that businessmen do not have to travel long distances. We should also proactively provide visa facilitation” Ambassador Khan noted.
Again coming back to the broader vision, he said we must work on the concepts of trans-border and trans-regional economic zones so that China’s Western Development Strategy benefits its immediate neighbours particularly Pakistan.
The Forum, therefore, is an excellent initiative to create an interface between the traders, investors, and entrepreneurs of China and Pakistan, Kashgar and Pakistan.
He said that we have a good architecture and good instruments for economic and trade cooperation. The Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) have been signed that cover goods, services and investment. The macro-economic indicators are improving but they lagged behind strategic cooperation, he added. He, however, said that since 2002, the bilateral trade has quadrupled to US $ 8.7 billion last year.
He said that the overall year on year growth was 28%, with Pakistani exports increasing by 30% and Chinese exports by 25%. Still Pakistan has a trade deficit of US $ 6 billion, however, a series of measures are being taken to rectify the situation.
Under the next five year plan, we have identified 36 projects which cover education, health care, water conservancy, agriculture, transport, energy, and environment”.