ISLAMABAD -  Experts on Wednesday were of the opinion at a forum that China should not ask Pakistan for extra concessions for its industries and take the country on board to reap the benefits of the CPEC.

The participants of a conference were also unanimous that the outdated fleets of Pakistan trucking industry with its current condition cannot efficiently undertake the cross-border transportation under the CPEC and required complete overhaul.

If the government wants to reap the benefits of cross-border trade under the CPEC, it should implement the trucking reforms policy, provide relief in duties on the import of trucks and provide training to drivers, said speakers at the CPEC Logistics International Forum (CLIF).

The two-day forum that is going to conclude on Thursday (today) was organised by the National Logistics Cell (NLC), and was attended by logistics experts from China, Taiwan, Middle East and Pakistan.

Mega Movers Chairman Nawabzada Zaheer Barakzai said that due to its outdated trucking system Pakistan was losing two percent of its GDP, damaging the national highways, wasting agriculture products, burning extra fuel and increasing the level of carbon footprint.

He said the current trucking industry could no way undertake the cross-border trade unless it was completely reshaped with modern logistics.

Transfreight Coy Chief Executive Officer Babar Badat said that after the disintegration of the USSR, Pakistan had lost a good opportunity to develop its trucking industry on modern lines. He said Pakistan, Iran and Turkey were the main prospective beneficiaries of the demise of the USSR, “but we have missed that opportunity.”

Iran, despite sanctions, had developed its logistics by importing thousands of modern trucks, while Turkey emerged as the world’s largest trucking company outside the US.

Badat said there were around 1,200 to 1,500 logistics companies working in Pakistan, but the industry needed overhaul to undertake the cross-border trade. He said the disintegrated transport industry was another hurdle in the way of cross-border trade.

Currently, logistics industry is being dealt with by seven different ministries, which is making things complicated.

Badat said the government should establish the transport ministry to facilitate the modernisation of the trucking industry as per future requirements. He opined Pakistan should ratify all the international conventions related to trucking industry as well as customs conventions as connectivity was not possible without ratifying them.

In a presentation on trade potential, Raja Amer Iqbal of the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI) said the CPEC was a game changer only if industrialisation happened in Pakistan. He asserted as a result of joint ventures with Chinese 80 percent jobs should be given to Pakistanis. “Industrialisation is the only way to have millions and millions of jobs for Pakistanis,” Iqbal said.

He said China should take Pakistan on board regarding the CPEC projects and “we must have an agreement with Beijing in this regard.”

Former secretary finance and incumbent dean of NUST, Ashfaq Hassan Khan, said Sri Lankan example was given by the people who were not pro-CPEC. However, he said investment in infrastructure should not be on commercial basis.

Once Pakistan starts repaying these loans, it may face problems, Hassan said. If such a situation developed, Pakistan will have go to the IMF for help and “they will kill us”.

“I have been to China on several occasions and have asked Chinese to make a similar kind of institution, which can bail out the Asian economies in case they face balance-of-payment problems,” he maintained. Hassan said Asian problems should have an Asian solution.

Regarding special economic zones (SEZs), he said they could gauge the level of seriousness of the government from allocations for the SEZs in the fiscal year 2017-2018. “No money was allocated for the economic zones in the PSDP because we are talkers and not doers,” he added.

Chinese side is serious and Pakistan was required to develop at least one economic zone by now to attract Chinese investors, Hassan said.

He further said Pakistan lacked trained manpower to undertake the CPEC project; as a result, China would bring its own manpower.

“Our universities are producing the graduates who cannot qualify CSS exams and out of 10,000 only 200 qualify,” Hassan maintained. He said China should not demand extraordinary concessions from Pakistan as it would have a negative impact on the country.

“As far as concessions and incentives in Gwadar are concerned, I fully favour it for no one was coming to the area,” Hassan added.

Earlier, NLC Director General Maj-Gen Mushtaq Ahmed in his opening remarks said, “We understand that presently Pak-China trade was heavily lopsided in favour of the latter. A meaningful improvement in Pakistan’s potential to reap the desired dividend from Chinese partnership in general and the CPEC in particular will depend on our capacity to improve bilateral trade pictures”.

This will be done through reformative steps in terms of expansion of industrial base, development of skilled human resource, reliable energy supplies and an overall trade-friendly culture, he added.

Ahmed said the CPEC passed through Khunjerab, but it was not an all-weather route at the moment. Existing arrangement at border terminals do not support heavy movement of trade as these are cumbersome and time-consuming, he said. These terminals need definite upgrade of their facilities and simplified customs procedure to reduce time and help in better management of an increased volume of traffic, the NLC DG said. He asserted trucking sector of Pakistan needed roads of international standards along with diversified fleets.

Ahmed said, “All we hear of the CPEC today is about energy projects, infrastructure, Gwadar and SEZs. One thing which really puts the soul in all these areas is logistics.”