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LAHORE: Special Assistant to Prime Minister on China Pakistan Economic Corridor, Khalid Mansoor on Tuesday said that during phase II of CPEC focus of the government is on establishing Special Economic Zones in textiles, IT, automobiles, pharmaceuticals and Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), and renewable energy.

He expressed these views while delivering the keynote address at the inaugural session of Punjab Chapter CPEC Industrial Cooperation and B2B (business to business) Investment Conference. Board of Investment (BoI) Chairman and Minister of State Mohammad Azfar Ahsan, Provincial Minister for Industries and Commerce Mian Aslam Iqbal, Secretary BoI, Fareena Mazhar, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Nong Rong and Pakistan’s Ambassador to China Moin ul Haque shared their views

through video link. He also apprised the participants on the recent improvements introduced in legal regime to facilitate investors by BoI & CPEC authority with regards to one window operations.

A MoU between HBL and China Machinery Engineering Cooperation (CMEC) on Agricultural Cooperation was signed towards the end of the CPEC Industrial Cooperation and B2B Investment Conference.

Minister of State & Chairman BoI, Muhammad Azfar Ahsan highlighted that CPEC industrial cooperation is all-inclusive in its scope and open to third-party participation and invited the business community from China and from all over the world to invest in Pakistan’s economic sectors.

Ahsan stressed that Pakistan has a liberal investment regime and apprised the participants on the various investor-friendly policies recently introduced by the incumbent government including electric vehicle policy, mobile manufacturing, construction sector policies, sole enterprise Special Economic Zone, regulations 2020, SEZ Zone Enterprise Admin and Sale/Lease/Sublease of Plot Regulations 2021.

Energy sector: BoI says Pakistan offers great opportunities to foreign investors

The Chairman also informed the participants about “Pak-China B2B Investment Portal” which has been developed by BoI in collaboration with the China Council for International Investment Promotion and both local and Chinese companies are being encouraged to register for creating the possibility of materializing potential JV opportunities.

“Pakistan accords top priority to the development of Special Economic Zones under CPEC.” Chairman BoI Ahsan further elaborated that currently, out of the nine CPEC SEZs, three are at an advance stage of development including Allama Iqbal Industrial City in Punjab, Rashakai SEZ in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Dhabeji SEZ in Sindh and attractive fiscal incentives are being offered under SEZs which include a tax free period of 10 years and custom duty exemption on import of capital goods to both the developer and enterprises housed in the SEZs.

Secretary BoI, Fareena Mazhar stated that there are ample opportunities for foreign investors to invest with 100% equity or joint ventures in various fields with the repatriation of investment and profit allowed with legal protection provisioned under the Acts of parliament to foreign investment. The Secretary further added that government has a uniform treatment for local and foreign investors along with 100% repatriation of profits and dividends and there is no requirement of minimum investment for businesses start-ups.

While apprising the participants on “Pakistan Regulatory Modernization Initiative”, Fareena stated that the platform has been established with a mechanism to transform the regulatory landscape across multifaceted tiers of government in Pakistan.

Fareena underscored that several international corporations and businesses have a long history of association with Pakistan and are earning a substantial return on their investments. Therefore, businesses communities are invited to reap optimum benefits from the lucrative and liberal investment regime of the government and explore investment opportunities available in different sectors of the national economy.

Provincial Minister for Industries and Commerce Mian Aslam Iqbal said that Pakistan, especially Punjab with its highly skilled labour force and natural resources is ideally placed to act as the forward manufacturing base for industries of China and other countries.

Provincial Minister said Pakistan and China are celebrating 70 years of brotherhood, and their leadership and the people have always stood by each other. He believed that such regular interactions of the businesses are most important to implement China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in an effective manner.

CPEC is a great bond of mutual socio-economic growth between both the countries, creating investment opportunities not only for China and Pakistan but also for the whole world, he remarked. Mian Aslam Iqbal mentioned that with the 6th largest population, excellent road infrastructure, connectivity via rail and air links, large industrial base, green agriculture landscape and more than 500,000 graduates produced every year; Punjab is one of the most preferred investment destinations in the world.

He added, as CPEC is now becoming fully operational after the completion of the early harvest projects and the start of the second phase which shall result in industrial cooperation between Pakistan and China, Punjab has a critical role to assume. This second phase of CPEC demands focus on industrial cooperation, increase in agriculture production, value-addition and business connectivity in all sectors of the economy so as to learn and expand our market access, he maintained.

The Minister said, “Industrial collaboration and mutual cooperation in the socio-economic segments which is the top priority of both sides shall help us to create a win-win situation for our people. China Pakistan Free Trade Agreement (FTA-II) signed during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to China in 2019 would open new avenues in enhancing trade between both countries and addressing the balance of trade deficit issue. The current global economic situation demands that Pakistan and China must work more closely to harness the full potential of CPEC and CPFTA II and other regional cooperation frameworks.

Mian Aslam underscored, “Today, we all must take strong steps towards promoting and highlighting the investment regime, industrialization framework and the available opportunities of Punjab. Punjab is the largest province of Pakistan with a population of 110 million Punjab and contributes 60 percent to the national GDP of Pakistan.

There have been three Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Punjab out of which two were operational when we took over the government, he said and asserted that the present government has launched seven more SEZs while the project of Quaid-i-Azam Business Park in the province has been revived to fast track the industrialization.

Allama Iqbal Industrial City under CPEC is also developing speedily. There are also twenty-four small industrial estates operational across the province. The Government of Punjab has taken several initiates for creating vocational skills among the young people and to enable them to work with the large key players/industry. He said that Chinese investors can use Pakistan as a forward manufacturing base for strong international access.

“We look forward to more investments from China especially in the value addition of the textile and garments manufacturing sector, Agriculture, IT and low-cost housing sector. At the same time, we also want to invite investors from around the world to take the advantage of this opportunity created under the CPEC and become partners in our growth journey. The Government of Punjab is fully committed to offering a competitive environment to attract FDI (Foreign Direct Investment),” he concluded.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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