Pakistani and Chinese foreign policy experts said on Friday that enhanced Sino-Pakistani economic and trade links will further consolidate and upgrade the time-tested friendly relations between the two countries.
The focus of China-Pakistan ties since their establishment 55 years ago has been on political, diplomatic and defence co-operation, "with no substantive economic interaction between the two countries," said Fazal-ur-Rahman, East Asia director of the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) think-tank,
The scholar said that the two countries recently came to realize the missing economic dimension in their relationship and started work to improve bilateral economic and trade relations.
"We have now come a long way in promoting our bilateral economic relations," said the expert on Sino-Pakistani relations.
Economic co-operation, including trade, energy, transportation, agriculture and infrastructure projects, has been a major topic in high-level talks between the two countries in recent years. The two nations have had a continuous increase in activities in trade, investment and development projects.
Hu Shisheng, a senior researcher on South Asia with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said that the China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement, which was signed on Friday, would help China import more Pakistani goods to ease China's trade surplus with the country.
According to the agreement, Pakistani products and services from sectors including agriculture and fisheries can be exported to China on a tariff-free basis, he added.
The agreement is expected to help Sino-Pakistani trade grow to US$15 billion within the next five years. Bilateral trade reached US$4.2 billion last year, up 39 per cent year-on-year.
Turning to energy co-operation, Hu Shisheng pointed out that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf proposed an "energy corridor" earlier this year when visiting China and the topic might be on the agenda of the talks between the two leaders.
Such an "energy corridor," which will provide China with easier access to oil and gas resources in Central Asia and the Middle East, would help China diversify the sources of its energy imports and would lead to the development of more roads, railways and pipelines, Hu said.
"It still needs feasibility studies and whether Pakistan is capable of ensuring the safety of the corridor is the key issue," Hu said.
Source: China Daily