PM Shehbaz Sharif embarks on five-day visit to China

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PM Shehbaz Sharif embarks on five-day visit to China

ISLAMABAD, JUN 4: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Tuesday embarked on his first official five-day visit to China since assuming the top office in March this year, as Islamabad aims to advance bilateral trade and economic ties with Beijing and attract Chinese investors towards Pakistan via business-to-business (B2B) projects.

The premier’s visit comes after receiving an invitation from Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang. Apart from Beijing, the prime minister is set to visit two more Chinese cities Xi’an and Shenzhen during the three-segment trip.

Among the high-level meetings scheduled for his official trip, PM Shehbaz is set to meet President Xi Jinping and conduct delegation-level talks with Premier Li Qiang in the Chinese capital.

The premier’s visit comes more than a month after Pakistan arrested four terrorists for their involvement in the deadly explosion targeting a car carrying five Chinese citizens on March 26.

Before boarding the plane from Lahore to China, PM Shehbaz expressed confidence that his visit will further elevate friendship to a higher pedestal between Islamabad and Beijing.

He said that China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would be taken to a new era in which special focus would be given to the promotion of business-to-business links as well as the execution of mega projects on a government-to-government basis.

Presenting his agenda for talks with top Chinese leadership, the premier said new agreements and partnership will be discussed in the areas of agriculture, mines and minerals, information technology, infrastructure development, skill and vocational training of youth, industries, and Special Economic Zones.

The prime minister added that discussion will also be held on commercialisation of Gwadar port as well as the expansion of silk route through sea and road.

Highlighting the strong bonds that exist between the two countries, PM Shehbaz said Pakistan-China friendship is everlasting and there is no precedence of such a relationship in the world. He said Beijing always supported Pakistan unconditionally in difficult times.

The premier said China has always raised voice for the oppressed Kashmiri people in categorical terms. He added that Pakistan also supports the Chinese stance on their core issues including One China policy and South China Sea.

PM Shehbaz was highly appreciative of the vision and dynamic leadership of President Xi Jinping saying his approach not only has made China the second largest economic and military power in the world but also led the world towards peace and prosperity.

Engagements on China visit

During his visit, the premier will also with with Chairman of Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress Zhao Leji and heads of key government departments.

To further economic ties between Islamabad and Beijing, PM Shehbaz will meet with corporate executives of leading Chinese companies dealing in oil and gas, energy, ICT, and emerging technologies.

In Shenzhen, he will address the China-Pakistan Business Forum with leading businesspersons, entrepreneurs, and investors from both countries. The premier will also visit the Economic and Agricultural Zones in China.

Both sides will undertake discussions to further upgrade China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and advance trade and investment.

The talks will be held to enhance cooperation in security and defence, energy, space, science and technology, and education sectors.

An official told The News that various memorandums of understanding (MoUs) and agreements were likely be signed during the prime minister’s current visit.

An extension in the tenor of outstanding repayment of Chinese IPPs (Independent Power Producers) for five years to reduce the cost of electricity is likely during the premier’s visit, as per The News.

Amid expectations to kickstart execution on second phase of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Pakistan is expecting some movement for agreement to convene joint financing committee meeting for construction of Mainline-1 (ML-1).

Pakistani side had granted its assent to PC-1 of ML-1 with estimated cost of $6.7 billion for execution in two phases. 

Under the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme, there is a limitation on sovereign guarantees so the government may request the Chinese side to accomplish the ML-1 in more than two phases.

When The News reached out to Federal Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal for comments, he said that the ML-1 was on top priority of the government and it was expected that both the sides would achieve progress for moving towards it in substantial manner.