ISLAMABAD: As the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) kicks into top gear, the two countries are now moving ahead on the free trade zone (FTZ) at Gwadar and preliminary plans are now being finalised.
Specific plans for the new CPEC trade zone, part of Pakistan’s Gwadar Port, are under discussion to make this port more like Hong Kong, the Shanghai Securities News has reported.
The report said that China’s top economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), is heading the Chinese delegation in the discussions. A number of companies based in Zhuhai in South China’s Guangdong province have signed deals with counterparts in Gwadar worth $1.02 billion to develop the port, news portal ifeng.com has reported.
Specific plans might include establishing industry parks, which are effective in facilitating investment and trade, said Chen Fengying, an expert with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.
“I believe that more plans will follow, and the establishment of an FTZ at the strategically import port is an important step,” Chen told the Global Times, a Chinese daily.
The Global Times of Beijing quoted a report that China Overseas Ports Holding Co (COPHC) has leased over 650 acres of land in Gwadar to build and operate the FTZ. “That was the first part of a deal signed between the two countries, under which Pakistan will provide a total of 2,281 acres of the Gwadar Trade Zone to COPHC as part of a 43-year lease,” the report mentioned.
Five-year economic plan
Additionally, China has also initiated a 13th five-year economic and social development plan for the year 2016-2020. Leaders of the Communist Party of China (CPC) have approved proposals for the plan at the fifth plenary session of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee held in Beijing.
This was stated by Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Sun Weidong while addressing the CPEC media forum.
Giving details of the CPEC initiative, he said it is a process rather than just one project. Building CPEC needs to be based on scientific research and design by short, medium and long-term planning.
“It is a comprehensive cooperation framework that focuses on four major areas of energy, transport infrastructure, industrial parks and Gwadar Port.”
Weidong spoke about the recent success of the 5th meeting of Joint Cooperation Committee on CPEC. “The meeting reached a number of agreements, in the energy sector, out of the 14 priority projects, Port Qasim Power Plant, Sahiwal Power Plants, Zonergy Solar Project and many others are under construction.”
He said nine projects have achieved or reached the advanced stage of financial close. “We have held comprehensive and productive consultations on various infrastructure projects,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 19th, 2015.