Pakistan-China trade in iffy times


S M Naveed

PAKISTAN-China Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry has been striving hard to continue trade relations between business communities of Pakistan and China despite prevailing Corona pandemic. Besides organizing online webinars and workshops, a mega exhibition titled as “Pakistan-China Industrial Expo 2020” was also arranged last month in Royal Palm Country Club Lahore, which was open to the visitors of both the countries offline as well as online. The exhibition led the way in delivering the most exquisite opportunities for all participants in different sectors including CNC machinery, construction machinery, new energy, building material, agricultural machinery, plastic machinery, hardware, chemical and auto parts.
Pakistan and China share close and friendly relations since the establishment of diplomatic relations in May 1951. Over the years, this relationship has blossomed into an “All Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership”. The two neighbouring countries’ bilateral relationship and trade is characterized by feelings of mutual trust, respect and goodwill toward each other. There is a regular, highest-level exchange of visits between the two countries. Pakistan-China strategic cooperation has grown in the last several decades. According to the statistics of Pakistani customs, so far, China has been Pakistan’s largest trade partner and the second export destination country for consecutive years, and topping the FDI original country for consecutive years. Along with the constant upward trend of the China-Pakistan trade, a rising concern on trade deficit with China has been echoing in the Pakistani business communities.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister has apparently denied the idea that in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic there will be any stopping of trade between Pakistan and China. In an interview with Global Times in Beijing, he said that amid virus outbreak, the two great nations maintained transport and trade ties. He said that China had shared her experience battling the deadly coronavirus with Pakistan and had sent teams to assess the situation and provided testing kits in thousands. Just a few days after the visit of Pakistan’s President to China, where he shook hands with Xi Jinping during this period of physical distancing, the Chinese government sent medical supplies that have already arrived in Karachi. The most sought after item in many countries today is the planeload of supplies: 500,000 face masks, including 50,000 N-95 masks, donated to the provincial government. President’s visit, the first by any nation to go to Beijing following the Covid-19 outbreak, was seen by diplomacy experts as a sign of Pakistan’s unity at a difficult time for China.
Chairman of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Pakistani Senate, said, “Not only did we display trust in our friendship, but it was a scientifically sound decision, as there is not a single Covid-19 case coming from China in Pakistan.” It appears the decision has yielded results. China is offering Pakistan preferential treatment in providing the medical supplies desperately needed. The medical equipment sent by China today and in high demand in Pakistan is on the wish-list of all doctors worldwide. By the morning of 30 March 1,593 confirmed cases of coronavirus were present in the country. In Pakistan, Digital marketing and trade do not have many professionals and this field is still relatively new. Pakistan-China trade is directly connecting the companies from both countries and providing them chance for business match-making.
Pakistan-China Joint Chamber of Commerce & Industry has always been on the forefront to server cross-border business delegations through its special services which includes but not limited to direct interaction with top business leaders of China-Pakistan through digital meeting, Business match-making, offering conversational Chinese language course for removing language barrier, Capacity building of local entrepreneurs with the collaboration of Chinese experts under the auspices of National Productivity Organization. Under the prevailing global pandemic it is important to strengthen the bilateral trade between two nations. To increase the trade, many initiatives have been taken to digitally link Pakistan-China companies with Chinese enterprises of electronics, auto-spare parts, machinery, metal, industrial parts, and hardware primarily to strengthen bilateral trade of industries under the promotional package of the Prime Minister of Pakistan. The concept of online business interaction is to provide contemporary solutions for carrying out normal business operations by avoiding physical concentration of business people.
—The writer is an industrialist and currently also President Pakistan-China Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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