Pakistan to sign FTA with China to bridge trade deficit

Pakistan’s federal cabinet on Tuesday approved a draft of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to be signed with China during Imran Khan’s upcoming visit to Beijing. (Shutterstock)
Updated 23 April 2019
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Pakistan to sign FTA with China to bridge trade deficit

  • Islamabad’s trade deficit with Beijing widened to $9.7 billion in fiscal year 18
  • China to provide market access to 90 percent of Pakistani commodities at zero rated duty

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s federal cabinet on Tuesday approved a draft of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to be signed with China during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s upcoming four-day visit to Beijing, said the PM’s special assistant on information and broadcasting Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan. 

The move is aimed at helping Islamabad bridge its trade deficit with China that has widened over $9 billion.

In recent years, China has emerged as the largest trade partner of Pakistan and pledged over $60 billion infrastructure development program in 2013, known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – a network of roads, pipelines, power plants, industrial parks, and a port along the Arabian Sea.

“The FTA with China will help us protect our local industry, and bridge the gap between exports and imports of both the countries,” Awan said while terming it a “great achievement” of Pakistan.

Pakistan has been struggling to sign a second phase of the FTA with China for the last eight years to boost its exports to Beijing and this would now be inked on April 28 by the commerce ministers of both the countries.

Islamabad’s trade deficit with Beijing widened to $9.7 billion in the last fiscal year, according to State Bank of Pakistan, as Chinese imports to Pakistan increased to $11.458 billion against the exports of just $1.744 billion. The officials say the earlier FTA with China was in favour of Beijing and discouraged Pakistani exports.

“The new FTA will help bring trade parity with China,” she said.

Under the second phase of the FTA, China is expected to provide market access to 90 percent of Pakistani commodities at zero rated duty, while Pakistan would give China market access to 65 percent tariff lines. These incentives to Pakistan would be equivalent to the duty-free market share already enjoyed by the countries of Association of East Asian Nations (ASEAN) from China.

“China was initially reluctant to sign a new FTA with Pakistan, but Prime Minister Imran Khan’s successful diplomacy during his last visit to Beijing helped materialize it,” the prime minister’s special assistant said while briefing media after the cabinet’s meeting.

Prime Minister Khan is visiting China from April 25 to 28 to attend the 2nd Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, along with a ministerial delegation and 450 members of business community. In addition to participating in the Belt and Road Forum, the Prime Minister would also hold bilateral meetings with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.

“Our businessmen will interact with Chinese investors and corporate sector to bring investments in Pakistan,” she said, “if the economy gets strengthened, we will be able to provide jobs to our youth.”

To a question, she said the government has received financial support from friendly countries including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and China to stave off a balance of payments crisis. “This support also helped us negotiate a better loan deal with IMF,” said Awan.

About the proposed tax amnesty scheme for undeclared local and offshore assets, she said the government’s economic team has been fine tuning it to ensure the scheme’s effectiveness in strengthening the country’s fragile economy. “This will be a comprehensive document and unveiled soon,” she added.


Egypt inks deal with Cyprus for power link to Europe

Updated 23 May 2019
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Egypt inks deal with Cyprus for power link to Europe

  • It is estimated the project will take 36 months to implement from the start of construction, with the lowest point 3,000 meters below sea-level
  • Phase 1 will see the interconnector carry a capacity of 1,000 MW which can be upgraded to 2,000 MW at a later stage

NICOSIA: Egypt has signed a deal with a Cypriot firm to lay a 310-kilometer (195-mile) cable under the Mediterranean to export electricity to Europe, the company said on Thursday.
Nicosia-based EuroAfrica described the deal, worth an estimated two billion euros, as a “landmark.”
“Cyprus now becomes a major hub for the transmission of electricity from Africa to Europe,” said company chairman Ioannis Kasoulides.
It is estimated the project will take 36 months to implement from the start of construction, with the lowest point 3,000 meters below sea-level.
Phase 1 will see the interconnector carry a capacity of 1,000 MW which can be upgraded to 2,000 MW at a later stage.
“The national electricity grid of Egypt will be linked to the European electricity system through Cyprus and will contribute to energy security,” Kasoulides said.
Following the crises in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, the EU has been keen to develop alternative sources of energy to reduce its dependence on imports from Russia.
In the past year, gas has started flowing from four major new fields off Egypt’s Mediterranean coast, and output is already sufficient to meet domestic needs.
The Arab world’s most populous country is now seeking to develop the infrastructure to export its newfound energy wealth, both as liquefied natural gas and as electricity.
Egypt is also seeking to import gas from fields off Cyprus and Israel to boost the profitability of the new liquefaction and export facilities it is developing on its Mediterranean coast.
In September, Egypt signed a deal with Cyprus to build an undersea pipeline to pump Cypriot offshore gas to Egypt for processing for export to Europe.
The plans have led to closer eastern Mediterranean ties, with Cyprus, Egypt, Greece and Israel holding regular high-level meetings.