ISLAMABAD - Pakistan and China are likely to sign an industrial framework agreement for CPEC during the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to China.

The development of CPEC Special Economic Zone (SEZs) will also be part of the industrial frame work agreement which will get a kick-start during the PM’s visit, official sources told The Nation.

The Chinese government has invited Prime Minister Imran Khan to attend the China International Import Expo. Pakistan is the guest of honor at the conference to be attended by members of the Belt and Road Initiative. Prime Minister Imran Khan will visit China during first week of November.

During the visit, the source said that a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the establishment of Joint Working Group for the inclusion of social sector development may also be signed during the PM’s upcoming visit to China. The source said that the sector and financial arrangements for the social sector development will be finalized in the upcoming visit. Pakistan will request China to provide grant for the development of social sector which includes the construction of low cost housing, health, education facilities, the source added. Regarding Special Economic Zones, the source said that although SEZs are part of the main CPEC framework agreement but Pakistan and China have to yet sign specific framework agreement for the development of the proposed Special Economic Zones (SEZs). It is pertinent to mention here that China and Pakistan have agreed on the establishment of nine SEZs in Pakistan.

The source said that it is part of the main CPEC agreement, it has the endorsement of the Chinese high officials and NDRC however no framework agreement has been signed regarding the development of these zones.

Now SEZs will become part of the Industrial Framework Agreement and may also get a kick start, the source said. On Tuesday a progress review meeting on the Rashakai SEZ, located in Mardan KP, was held in the Ministry of Planning and it was decided that it will be discussed with Chinese so a roadmap can be finalized for the zone. Of all the SEZs, Rashakai Industrial Zone is in the advance stage and its feasibility has already been done and now the provincial government will open its makeshift office there till the establishment of permanent office, the source said.

The Industrial Framework agreement will go beyond SEZs and it will also include the relocation of Chinese industries to various parts of Pakistan, the source maintained. The next phase agreements of 300 megawatts coal-fired Gwadar power project and socioeconomic development schemes could be signed during the prime minister’s visit. More deliverables would be worked out during the joint working groups of CPEC meetings.

Meanwhile, Pakistan and China here on Tuesday signed eight MoUs worth $100 million for mutual investment in seafood, agriculture, steel and pharmaceutical sectors. Around 14 private companies from both sides signed MoUs for mutual investment and joint ventures to expedite the trade and business ties between the two countries. The signing ceremony of Pak-China Trade Cooperation Projects was organised by Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) and Ministry of Commerce China.

Addressing on the occasion, Economic and Commercial Counselor of China Embassy, Wang Zhihua said that Chinese Embassy welcomes the mutual investment and joint ventures between the private investor companies of both sides and encouraged private sectors to go for more investment in both countries.

He said Pakistan is friendly country, adding that since the diplomatic relations started between Pakistan and China, the cooperation between both sides has increased in defence, technology, agriculture, leather and chemicals. In recent years, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) under 'One belt one road' has given new height to mutual relations and cooperation between both friend countries.

He said that the leadership of both sides gives prime importance to economic and trade relations which need to be increased. He said that China is working on around forty projects in different sectors including infrastructure, energy and transport where huge employment opportunity are available for local people in Pakistan. Wang Zhihua informed that trade between China and Pakistan has been increased from last five consecutive years besides increase in bilateral cooperation in agriculture, mineral, chemical and steel. He said that Pakistan and China are negotiating on phase -II of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to increase trade and providing free trade opportunity their markets. He said that Pakistan has huge potential market for international investors and its strategic location gives more comparative advantages to other trading partners.

Addressing on the occasion, Additional Secretary Ministry of Commerce and Textile, Syed Tariq Huda said that Chinese investment in Pakistan gives positive impact to local market of Pakistan. He said that 'One Belt and One Road' initiative also gives vision for inclusions and welfare all region. “We have $ 60 billion Chinese investment in CPEC which includes development projects in Gwadar and also discussing free trade agreement (FTA) for increasing trade and economic relations between China and Pakistan.

On the occasion, Director General, Department of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Commerce China, Mr. Liu Changyu welcomed the MoU signed by the private sectors of both sides and said that both of the countries need to further increase trade for exploiting the economic and trade potential of two sides.