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Pakistan seeks more investment

By Wu Jiao | China Daily | Updated: 2013-07-04 07:57

Pakistan seeks more investment

Pakistan is welcoming more Chinese investment in infrastructure construction as it works to improve an economy hampered by years of conflict and terrorism, a former Pakistani prime minister said.

Shaukat Aziz made the comments as newly elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrived in Beijing on Wednesday afternoon during his first overseas tour since taking office in June.

Aziz said Sharif's visit to China will focus on strengthening economic ties and helping Pakistan improve its infrastructure.

Sharif, beginning his third term as prime minister, made fixing Pakistan's struggling economy and energy crisis the mantra of his election campaign. Since winning the election in May, he has sought to strengthen economic ties with Beijing.

Improving Pakistan's infrastructure construction is considered a way to reverse the country's economic malaise and energy shortage.

"China's infrastructure construction has developed very well. That expertise can be used by Pakistan through contractors, companies and suppliers." said Aziz, Pakistan's leader from 2004 to 2007.

"Pakistan needs China's experience in this area, especially with dams, highways and bullet trains," Aziz said. Chinese companies have advantages in bidding for these projects, given their financing and expertise, he said.

Pakistan is China's largest investment destination in South Asia and also China's second-largest trading partner in that region.

Trading partners

Bilateral trade was $12.4 billion in 2012, up 17.6 percent from 2011. The total profit of Chinese companies in Pakistan was $2.7 billion in 2012, an increase of 17.1 percent 2011, Chinese Ministry of Commerce said. The two countries signed a free trade agreement in 2006, which Aziz called a "cornerstone of our economic relationship".

"Chinese entrepreneurs should look to Pakistan as a profitable market with a good investment environment," he said.

China and Pakistan established diplomatic ties in 1951, and they refer to the Sino-Pakistani relationship as an "all-weather friendship". Premier Li Keqiang visited Pakistan in May during his first overseas trip as premier, highlighting the importance China attaches to its neighbor. "That Sharif was elected by a large majority in a general election and has chosen China as his first official visit signifies the importance of this relationship, which transcends political beliefs and parties," Aziz said.

During his visit, which will run through Monday, Sharif is scheduled to meet with President Xi Jinping, Li, and financial and corporate leaders, and to visit major industrial centers and special economic zones.

High-level visits

Former Pakistani officials also often visit China.

"Such visits are not made out of political obligation but are driven by Pakistanis' great affinity to China. Pakistanis respect China's achievements, which have improved the quality of life of its people," Aziz said.

The nations' multilevel communication is the basis of the friendship in various areas, and constant dialogue at different levels is the basis of a good relationship, Aziz said.

While Pakistan develops its relations with many other countries, the priority of the Sino-Pakistani friendship will not be influenced, he added.

Islamabad has taken measures to deal with the Taliban and terrorism, Aziz said, referring to the Taliban's recent terrorist attack in Pakistan's northern Gilgit-Baltistan area in which 11 people were killed, including two Chinese nationals and a Chinese-American.

"It was unfortunate," Aziz said. "It was not against any specific country and should not affect bilateral relations."

Zhang Fan contributed to this story.

(China Daily 07/04/2013 page11)

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