In what could be a big boost for our exports, China has agreed to offer Pakistan its market access similar to that offered to countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) on Islamabad’s demand, according to Advisor to Prime Minister on Commerce and Textile Abdul Razzak Dawood. Furthermore, Mr Dawood states that the Chinese government has agreed to immediately reduce duties to zero on 313 tariff lines. These new provisions will be a part of the negotiations to be held during the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Beijing later this month, where Pakistan and China are expected to sign the second phase of Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

Access to China’s burgeoning market could be a game-changer for Pakistan’s exports. Our exports have seen a sharp decline during the last financial year, leading to a burdensome deficit which the new government has managed to correct with harsh measures. In fact, one of the many concerns about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was that the negotiations between Pakistan and China had not been on a level playing field. Previously, while China would have free access to Pakistan’s market for their goods, there was not a similar arrangement for Pakistani goods, which lead to legitimate fears for Pakistan’s local economy and the disadvantages this posed for them. Moves to rectify such uneven clauses and make CPEC a more inclusive beneficial arrangement for all stakeholders is appreciated and will win more supporters to the global project.

It is interesting to juxtapose Pakistan’s position with the United States on the same topic of trade. As China gives in to Pakistan’s demand for market access, the US denied duty-free market access to Pakistani goods. The different outcomes of two similar demands are revealing of which country is championing trade and will go on to become more influential in this region.