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Hu focuses on greater economic cooperation with Pakistan

Source: PTI
November 26, 2006 20:36 IST
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Broadening the focus of China's "all weather friendship" with Pakistan with agreements on defence collaboration and economic tie-ups, President Hu Jintao wrapped up his four-day visit on Sunday by inaugurating a joint economic zone near Lahore.

"China attaches great importance to economic relations with Pakistan. Chinese companies were investing in Pakistan and investment in Pakistan was of mutual benefits for both the nations," Hu said after inaugurating the Haier-Ruba Economic Zone at Manga Mandi, some 40 km from Lahore and close to the Wagah border with India.

Hu said this would be the first largest home appliances production base in Pakistan and the first Sino-Pak joint venture of its kind.

"This project symbolises the widening and deepening of economic relations between China and Pakistan," he said, adding the economic zone would prove a pace setter for Pakistan-China economic relations.

The new economic zone was in addition to the Free Trade Area signed between the two countries during Hu's visit. The FTA, to be effective from July 1, 2007, will reduce tariffs to zero level on hundreds of items for import and export between the two countries and for the first time provide duty concessions to Pakistan's textile products.

Hu was seen off at the Lahore airport by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and a battery of officials after four days of grand ceremonies and public receptions in Islamabad and Lahore. However, President Pervez Musharraf, who along Aziz received Hu in Islamabad, was absent at the departure ceremony.

Though Sino-Pak bilateral trade was 4.5 billion, it was 75 per cent in favour of China and there was increasing criticism in Pakistan that Beijing was flooding its markets taking advantage of the strategic ties while conceding little.

Besides FTA the two countries signed 18 other agreements most of them related to trade and investment.

Pakistan hopes to get around five billion dollar Chinese investment in the next five years. The only significant defence agreement was a joint collaboration to produce airborne radars called AWACS which Pakistan was keen to acquire to counter Phalcon radars being procured by India from Israel.

While there was no open commitment from China to build six more 300 mw nuclear power plants, which Pakistan pressed for to counter India-US civil nuclear deal, Hu recalled the two nuclear power plants set up at Chashma in Punjab by Beijing's help and said the cooperation would continue in the nuclear energy arena. However, he did not elaborate.

In his address at the civic reception on Saturday in Lahore, Hu quoted a Chinese proverb saying that China may forsake gold but not friendship.

Apparently referring to emerging Sino-Indian ties as well as growing US-Pakistan relations he said, "The changing global scenario with critical challenges or the situation in the region will not effect our evergreen friendship," he said.

A 32-point joint statement issued on Saturday said terrorism and extremism together with separatism posed a threat to peace.

The two sides vowed their commitment to substantive cooperation under bilateral and multilateral frameworks to jointly combat the "three forces and maintain regional peace, stability and security".

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