BEIJING    -   Pakistan’s Ambassador to China Naghmana Alamgir Hashmi has said that free trade agreement (FTA) signed between Pakistan and China would become operational in a few months. “Actually the free trade agreement will hopefully be implemented shortly, because it’s still going through the internal processes of being ratified. We hope that in the next few months, it will become operational,” she said in an exclusive interview to China Economic Net (CEN) here on Friday.

Ambassador Hashmi said, “On our side all the procedures have been completed. On the Chinese side, there are a few procedures which are left. So we think it is going to be sooner rather than later. We just need to wait a little more, because governmental procedures have to take. But I think it will be very shortly very, very shortly.” While commenting on increase in Pakistani export to China, she said with the FTA becoming operational, the prices will in any way go down, because the import duties will not apply then.

“Secondly, we are just now in the process of completing the first phase of CPEC and the second phase of CPEC has now started, which is actually the establishment of special economic zones in various parts of the country. So with the establishment of these special economic zones and with the increasing number of agreements and cooperation in the agricultural sector, which is a priority both with President Xi and with Prime Minister Imran Khan, I think this is one area where there is huge potential of both investments, growth and then re-export of those value added products to China,” she added.

Commenting on export potential, she said there are certain products which have traditionally come to China, which are very much appreciated here. “We export a lot of rice to China that’s called 86. It’s the small glutinous rice. Then sugar is increasingly being imported in China. And sugar is very good quality. And yarn, we produce a lot of cotton and you have a huge textile industry. So yarn comes to China,” she added. Ambassador Hashmi said the Balochistan province is the only area in the world that produces onyx. Then a lot of gold and copper is being exported to China. Pakistan has a lot of potential both in minerals and in gemstones but do not have that advanced technology to polish and create them. So that is another area where Pakistan is looking for potential joint ventures.

Pakistan, she said, exports a number of leather products which are very good in quality and the area that has the most potential and again the area that has the focus of the leadership of both countries is agricultural products, development of farms, research in hybrid seeds, research and cooperation in the area that you put in the ground for cultivation.

“Then there is a huge prospect of cooperation in drip irrigation, because we are now trying to go to drip irrigation because of the shortage of water,” she added. She said that China is one of the leading countries that have really made very good use of drip irrigation and opined that agriculture is one area where there is a huge potential of further cooperation and joint ventures and investments, adding, “And then, of course, export of the materials to China and beyond China also.”

While dispelling the impression about delay of operation of Sukkur-Multan morotwary, she said the actual project itself has been completed. But along with this highway, there are certain other things that need to be established, adding, “For example, the barriers along the road have to be put in place. That work is ongoing. The lights have to be put. The police force for that particular highway is being raised. So those little things are left.”

Ambassador Hashmi reiterated all China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (PEC) projects have absolute and full support of the government of Pakistan, of the people of Pakistan, of all the political parties across the political divide. So there is no confusion or no controversy on either the importance of CPEC or the importance of completing the projects in time. And some of the projects have been completed even before time. About visa policy for Chinese citizens, she said for Chinese, Pakistan has on arrival visa policy and now there is also online visa.

“One of the first countries with which we’ve liberalized visa regime is China. There is so much work going on. There’s so much people to people contact. There’s so much political contact,” she added. Pakistan, she said, liberalized the visa regime for 94 countries. Pakistan is an open country. “We have nothing to hide. We’re not like the Indian occupied Kashmir, where people can’t go. You can go anywhere in Pakistan. You’re very welcome.” On registration of cell phone at Pakistani airport, she said in Pakistan, a lot of people who were misusing this particularly when there was a lot of terrorism going on. So in order to control that, the authorities have made a policy. Every foreigner who comes to visit Pakistan and even Pakistanis, it’s not only for foreigners, any traveler who’s living abroad and is coming home, at the airport, he needs to register his phone. “And that takes five minutes. So if your phone is registered at the airport and you only have to do once, nobody will stop you. But if your phone is not registered, then it becomes a problem,” she added.

Ambassador Hashmi asked all the Chinese going to Pakistan that there are big booths at the airport where they should register phone. “So if your phone is registered, your SIM will work. There’s absolutely no problem.” “So if you have a phone that you’re using, you register it, you bring it. They know that you’re going back. You’re not leaving the phone here. But if you have new phones, so in one year, one visitor can only bring one new phone,” she added.

On export of sugar to China for next year, she said, “I think next year also, because for our growers, exporters and manufacturers of sugar, it’s a product that we have introduced in Chinese market. Once the word goes around that this was a successful venture, I am sure next year you’ll get more and the year after you might even get more.” Regarding a chain, from Pakistan, China, South Korea, and export to European countries, she said that Pakistan have always had very good relations with South Korea and a very good export trade with that country.

“So I think it’s a very good idea that you pick up one expertise from one country, another from another country, and one advantage of a third country join together. I think this is very, very good. Our world is progressing and the three are friendly countries, there should not be a problem,” she added. About recently held Mango festival, she said this was the third mango festival that was organized in Beijing, which was so successful.

A very large number of Chinese attended the festival to taste mango, to taste the various mango products and we hope to see Pakistani mangoes being sold in supermarkets and markets all over China.

Ambassador Hashmi said with the completion of CPEC and the establishment of cold chains, lot of projects can then be transported by road and they won’t have to be airlifted.

“Mangoes cannot be shipped up to now, because it has very short shelf life and by road with a cold chain is also necessary for fisheries and other agricultural products, so that is another area where a lot of Chinese investors have an opportunity to do business in Pakistan, which would be mutually beneficial to the importers and the exporters, and is a nice way of introducing good Pakistani agricultural products at reasonable prices here in China,” she added.