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Pakistan, China to sign FTA

Asia Pulse/PPI | Oct 26, 2006

Pakistan, China to sign FTA

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan and China will sign a free-trade agreement (FTA) during the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to Pakistan next month.

A senior official said the understanding had been reached during a recent meeting of the countries’ technical delegations in Beijing.

According to the official, the two sides reached an agreement in the areas of investment and services, but some merchandise-trade issues remain unresolved. The official said it is expected that a technical-level meeting will be held ahead of the Chinese president’s visit to Islamabad to sort out the issues.

"Even if an understanding [is] not reached in these areas, the FTA [will] be signed, but it [will] be implemented [over] a period of four to five months [to provide time for] resolving the remaining issues," the official said.

This will be Pakistan’s first comprehensive FTA with any country, but it has a limited agreement with Sri Lanka, which only covers the trading of goods.

Over the past few years, Sino-Pakistani economic relations have developed rapidly. In 2005, bilateral trade reached US$4.26 billion, up 39% over 2004. Trade between China and Pakistan amounted to $1.018 billion in January to March this year, up 42.3% over the same period last year.

Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi has announced the provision of 202 hectares of land for Chinese investors in the province’s industrial estates.

The chief minister said the Chinese entrepreneurs, who are to invest $25 million, will be given the land free of charge, adding that those taking over developed industrial sites will be able to purchase them at the original cost.

He said such plots have already been allocated for Chinese investors in the industrial estate of Faisalabad.

Elahi said China’s industrial progress is a model for other countries and Pakistan wants to emulate it.

He also stressed the need for better coordination between the two countries’ chambers of commerce and industry.

 source: Asia Times