Islamabad: Pakistan and China agreed to expedite phase-2 of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), while deciding to establish a working group on five new economic corridors, including ‘Corridor of Job Creation, Corridor of Innovation, Corridor of Green Energy, and Inclusive Regional Development’.

Pakistan and China intensified efforts to establish a Working Group on five new economic corridors under Phase-II of the CPEC, aligning with the 5Es framework already prepared by the Planning Ministry.

This was discussed during a meeting between the Federal Minister of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, Ahsan Iqbal, and the Chinese envoy, Jiang Zaidong, on Friday, which lasted over one hour at the Planning Ministry.

Chinese Ambassador Jiang Zaidong congratulated Ahsan Iqbal on assuming the role of Planning Minister for the fourth time. Both sides have agreed to expedite phase 2 of the CPEC, while deciding to establish a working group on five new economic corridors, including the Corridor of Job Creation, Corridor of Innovation, Corridor of Green Energy, and Inclusive Regional Development.

Both the Planning Ministry and the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) of China will prepare separate concept papers on the new economic corridors, which will provide a clear roadmap for each sector in the future. These concept papers will be consolidated before presentation at the upcoming Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) meeting expected in 2024, stated the Planning Ministry.

The Planning Ministry has already initiated the implementation of the 5Es framework, which includes Export, Energy, Equity, E-Pakistan, and Environment.

During the meeting, the Planning Minister outlined a strategic approach to maximize the success of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) within Pakistan. He proposed a “one plus Four” model, wherein each SEZ in Pakistan would be partnered with one province from China, one industry group to develop specialized clusters within the SEZs, one SEZ from China to provide technical expertise, and a state-owned enterprise to spearhead SEZ development.

Minister Iqbal emphasized that this collaborative framework would expedite the establishment and growth of SEZs in Pakistan, enhancing their competitiveness and attractiveness to investors.

The Chinese envoy appreciated Pakistan’s efforts to implement the CPEC, particularly the initiation of phase 2.

Addressing Pakistan’s need to boost the efficiency of SEZs to increase foreign exchange, the Chinese envoy suggested that officers in charge of SEZs must visit Chinese industrial parks to observe firsthand the efficiency measures practiced by Chinese authorities. The Ambassador further highlighted Pakistan’s commendable transition from an agricultural to an industrial economy.

Ahsan Iqbal stressed that the success of SEZs depends on their ability to become clusters of specific industries, fostering economies of scale, and creating a vibrant ecosystem conducive to innovation and growth.

The discussions also focused on enhancing regional connectivity, with a special emphasis on critical infrastructure projects like the Gwadar Port and the M-8 motorway, which will strengthen trade links and facilitate regional integration.

The planning minister emphasized China’s industrial progress as exemplary and a motivational force for Pakistan to follow suit.

The minister appreciated Chinese assistance in helping Pakistan develop its exports. He stated that Pakistan’s current challenge is to determine how quickly it can build its exports through earned foreign exchange, not borrowed money.

The minister assured the ambassador that security is a prerequisite for development, and Pakistan acknowledges the full recognition of CPEC construction and security risks. However, these risks will not disrupt work on CPEC projects. Pakistan has made significant efforts to safeguard the security of Chinese workers and will further implement top-level security measures for Chinese personnel.