CPEC & Pakistan’s ‘Vision East Asia’ policy | By Dr Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan

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CPEC & Pakistan’s ‘Vision East Asia’ policy


RAPIDLY changing regional as well as international socio-economic deals/agreements, geopolitical scenarios and geostrategic compulsions have now encouraged policymakers in the country to “diversify” its foreign policy options and means of “engagements” through “rigorous” commercial diplomacy by “showcasing” the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as an effective tool for greater socio-economic prosperity, regional connectivity, poverty eradication, job generation and last but not the least, food and energy cooperation.

In this context, massive transformation from “geopolitics” to “geo-economy” has played a decisive role.

Most recent “non-binding” resolution of the European Union stressed the need of reviewing trade relations with Pakistan and ending its eligibility for the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) status has “reinforced” “validity” of Pakistan’s Vision East Asia Policy” which may be useful to further strengthen bilateral relations in terms of trade and commerce, joint ventures, FDIs, education, culture, artificial intelligence, digitalization and last but not the least, textiles etc with ASEAN and other important countries of the region.

 

Moreover, since CPEC “phase-II” is going to be started very soon, Pakistan would now have opportunities to collaborate with China and 60 other countries partnering in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in which most of the “ASEAN” countries are part of it.

The ASEAN Visions 2020 & 2025 are highly integrated and cohesive; competitive, innovative and dynamic with enhanced connectivity and sectoral cooperation and a more resilient, inclusive and people-oriented, people-centred community, integrated with the global economy and Pakistan is not any exception.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi emphasized that Pakistan would continue to “deepen” and “further’ strengthen political, economic and cultural ties with ASEAN and its member states in line with its ‘Vision East Asia’ policy.

Pakistan enjoys close, friendly ties with all ASEAN members and its historic and deep-rooted relations starting from ancient times to the modern era, tracking back to abiding linkages forged during the time of the “Gandhara Civilization”.

Pakistan is now a Sectoral Dialogue Partner (SDP) and an active member of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).

Pakistan has ample destinations of “Gandhara tourism” which may be showcased to all the ASEAN countries for the further trade & commerce.

Today, ASEAN is a “dynamic” trade bloc of 10 members, spanning over an area of 4.4 million square kilometres, a population of over 649 million and a GDP exceeding $3.1 trillion makes it the third largest economy in Asia and sixth in the world. It is a region of geostrategic importance to the world.

Each year some US$5.3 trillion worth of global trade passes through ASEAN’s waterways to close to 15 million barrels of oil passing through the Malacca Strait daily. Close “Naval cooperation” between Pakistan and ASEAN may be a giant step in the right direction for further strengthening of the blue economy, seaport cooperation etc.

Massive urbanization, demographics and technologies are the salient features of the ASEAN.

Large “infrastructure investment” estimated to be US$600 billion per year till 2022 in which ASEAN-6 alone Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam are projected to run a digital economy worth US$ 200 billion by 2025. Thus it offers a lot for the region and beyond.

Close cooperation in innovations, AI, green energies, digitalization, service sector and banking & financial sectors may be taken as preferential sectors between Pakistan and ASEAN.

Economically, the six largest ASEAN nations namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines are expected to witness positive real GDP growth rates in 2021.

According to the IMF (April, 2021) with continued expansion of trade and gradual recovery in the tourism sector and construction activities, Singapore’s GDP growth is forecast to increase to 5.8pc in 2021.

Similarly, Malaysia is set to witness a growth of 7.1pc in 2021, an uptick from -5.2pc in 2020.

Global Data (May 2021) forecasts Vietnam to be the fastest growing economy with a real GDP growth of 8.5pc in 2021.

Intra-Asian trade has been meagre in comparison, focused largely on raw material or components in Asia.

Trade in final products and services have been too costly because of tariffs or complicated because of non-tariff barriers.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership [RCEP] has been started to change this dynamic and make trade within Asia easier which may be a good omen for Pakistan Vision East Asia Policy.