No stoppage of trade between Pakistan, China under Covid-19 pandemic: Pakistan

Beijing: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said there would not be any stoppage of trade between Pakistan and China in the wake of coronavirus pandemic as both the countries had maintained transport and trade links.

“Obviously, we have to be more careful. Some precautionary measures have been taken and that could slow things down for a period. But trade is ongoing. There has been no stoppage of that. We have maintained our transport and trade links with China,” he told Global Times while describing the trade situation between China and Pakistan under the pandemic.

About impact of the epidemic on the construction of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), he said, “I don’t think it’ll have an impact in the long run. But in the short run, yes, there could be a slight slowdown. But both sides are committed that we will go ahead with full speed. As soon as we are over the hump of dealing with the coronavirus, I think we’ll be back on track. There’s a temporary dip, but I think things will revive very quickly.”

He expressed the confidence that the future of the CPEC was very bright and very promising, not just for Pakistan and China. In fact, the entire region stood to benefit from these projects.

Regarding China’s assistance in response to coronavirus cases in Pakistan, he said Yes, China had helped and shared its experience with Pakistan. China had sent teams to assess the situation and provided testing kits in the thousands.

“We are expecting personnel protective equipment from China. We think we need some additional portable ventilators. Quarantine facilities are being upgraded in Pakistan with Chinese help. So, there is coordination and assistance being provided by China,” he added.

About economic damage caused by the locust plague in Pakistan, he said the damages were being assessed and exact numbers would be calculated and shared with the government shortly.

“Obviously, this is a concern because we are primarily an agricultural economy and locusts have a damaging impact on all major crops,” he added.

He said the locust had the potential to destroy agricultural crops and impacting food security. “We are concerned and we have asked China for help.”

Qureshi said the government was happy that China had responded very positively in providing spraying equipment and pesticides to deal with this challenge. “With Chinese assistance, I think we will be able to deal with this effectively.”

Regarding President Alvi’s visit to China during this special time, he said, “We chose this time in particular to show solidarity with the people of China. The bonds that we have with China are unique. Our relationship is a very special one. And the people of Pakistan want to physically demonstrate to the people of China that we are standing with you in these challenging times.”

He said the basic agenda was to show solidarity, adding “But since we were coming here and meeting the leadership – the President, the Premier, and the Chairman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee – the bilateral relations, the regional situation, the peace process that is taking place in Afghanistan, and the situation in Jammu and Kashmir are all under discussion.”

“We will be setting up a working group on agriculture – how China can help Pakistan improve its agricultural productivity. And the other agreements and MOUs are on science and technology – how we can cooperate in the fields of science and technology,” he said.

Commenting on China’s measures to prevent and control the epidemic, he said China’s measures were not only timely, they were very effective. The discipline the nation showed, the determination shown to people, and the country’s leadership were being talked about all over the world today.

Countries that were initially critical of the measures that China had taken were now recognizing and appreciating what China had done, he added.

The foreign minister said China had shown its ability. China had shown discipline. China had shown its effective governance and administrative capability and the resilience of its health care system.

Responding to China’s cooperation with international community since the outbreak began, he said, “I think China is being viewed very positively in its containment of the disease within China, and is now offering help to other countries.”

For example, China’s assistance to Italy was very important. So, a lot of people were looking up to the Chinese experience to see how China had done it, and then replicating that in their own countries.

“It’s a global challenge. You cannot link this virus to any particular area, region or people. It’s a challenge that we all have to collectively fight and assist in. The WHO has issued guidelines, and they’ve also shown appreciation for what China has done,” he added.

“We have to take a global approach. We have to develop institutional links, and we have to ensure that there’s no panic,” he said.