ISLAMABAD: China and Pakistan agreed on Tuesday to make 2019 the ‘year of industrial, socio-economic and agriculture cooperation’ as Beijing promised to despatch a series of business delegations over the next two months to move forward on at least four special industrial zones during the year.
As a follow up to the recently concluded Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Minister for Planning and Development Makhdum Khusro Bakhtyar and Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing had a meeting here on Tuesday regarding the visits of Chinese investors to the country, according to a press release issued by the commission.
Bakhtyar said the memorandum of understanding on industrial cooperation, signed during the 8th JCC, provided a framework to promote communication on key industries such as textile, petrochemical and iron & steel, and encouraged Chinese investors to relocate and explore opportunities of investment in Pakistan.
Bakhtyar says work on SEZs under CPEC advancing rapidly; Chinese investor delegations due, BoI to take lead coordination role
China asked Islamabad to make the Board of Investment (BoI) as the lead agency in promoting industrial development and coordinate Pakistan’s land, energy, taxation, customs, law and other relevant departments to conduct research on the “most critical issues such as land prices, industrial park development models, implementation of industrial projects, professional tax policies and infrastructure support for all SEZs,” according to the minutes of the 8th JCC, available with Dawn.
It was agreed by both sides that Rashakai in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; M3 SEZ in Faisalabad, Punjab’ and Dhabeji in Thatta, Sindh should be prioritised for development “that meet the needs of investment companies and promote the construction of SEZs, as soon as possible, and actively attract more enterprises to invest and build factories including in Information Technology SEZ in Islamabad” as per the minutes.
Speaking to Dawn separately, BoI Chairman Haroon Sharif said “we need to put in a lot of effort on the governance model for the SEZs” before they can be considered to be ready. “I will be sending a recommendation to the prime minister on timely development of priority SEZs in a few weeks time.”
He said that under SEZ Act 2012, the tax incentives are very clearly identified. “That is what we are working under. Beyond that, we can provide uninterrupted supply of energy, affordable priced land, and other services such as labour” he continued, adding that SEZs can only be effective if they operate as “a one-stop shop” for all investors.
The Planning Commission, in its press release, said Ambassador Jing appreciated that “8th JCC meeting finalised the deliverables to expand the scope of cooperation between China and Pakistan to new avenues [and both sides] agreed to expedite work by promoting joint ventures and export-led growth under CPEC by declaring 2019 as year of industrial, socio-economic and agriculture cooperation.”
Bakhtyar said Pakistan could become an ideal destination for Chinese investment in different sectors for industries planned for relocation and the government will facilitate Chinese investors looking for opportunities under CPEC and create ‘a pull effect’.
The minister said the first meeting of the joint working group (JWG) on socio-economic development was a major milestone and the action plan discussed therein will support uplift of less developed areas. Pakistan has already forwarded invitation letter to China for the visit of its expert team.
The two agreed “to work for speedy implementation of initiatives in already identified six areas including agriculture, education, medical treatment, poverty alleviation, water supply and vocational training projects.”
Bakhtyar hoped the JWG meeting on agriculture, scheduled for Feb 15, will provide an opportunity to broaden CPEC cooperation. He emphasised that Chinese investors should explore investment opportunities in Pakistan’s agriculture sector for input supplies as well as food production, processing, logistics, marketing and exports in a vertically integrated way on their own or in joint ventures (B2B) with local companies.
Both sides agreed to ensure that this year Gwadar projects such as new international airport, hospital and vocational institutes hit the ground within three months “to benefit local population and gain the support and trust of the local people.”
The envoy said a large number of Chinese investors will visit Pakistan soon that would “further strengthen the bonds of economic and bilateral cooperation.”