ISLAMABAD  - China Monday said Pakistan was an important partner for Beijing over and above the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Speaking at a news conference here, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing said Prime Minister Imran Khan’s upcoming visit to China was significant and it will help to further enhance the existing friendly ties.

“It is not only due to CPEC. Pakistan is an important country for us (China) for other reasons too. CPEC is based on mutual interests,” he said.

Prime Minister Khan will be visiting China from April 25-28 on a three-day official visit at the invitation of President Xi Jinping, the Foreign Office had earlier announced.

The envoy said the Second Belt and Road Forum was to be held in Beijing from April 25 to April 27.

Leaders including heads of states and governments from 37 countries would attend the forum’s roundtable summit.

“Pakistan being a major partner of Belt and Road Initiative is the most important of all,” the envoy said.

Under FTA, China will provide market access to 90% of Pakistani commodities on zero-rated duties

“The Chinese Prime Minister and President are looking forward to visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to China where he would also hold bilateral meetings with the Chinese leadership to build more consensus on bilateral trade ties,” he added.

Belt and Road Forum provides a platform to countries participating in BRI for exchanging views and experiences on regional connectivity; policy synergy; socio-economic development and trade and commerce.

During the visit, the prime minister will be accompanied by a ministerial delegation. He will deliver a keynote speech in the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum and participate in the Leaders’ Round Table. He would also hold meetings with several Heads of State, Government and corporate and business leaders.

The prime minister would also hold bilateral meetings with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. Pakistan and China will also sign several MoUs and agreements to enhance bilateral cooperation in diverse areas.

PM Khan will attend Beijing International Horticulture Exhibition-2019 and address Pakistan Trade and Investment Conference in Beijing.

This will be the second visit of the Prime Minister to China. He had earlier paid a state visit to China in November last year.

Yao Jjng said the Chinese leadership was looking forward to PM Imran Khan’s visit.“Prime Minister Imran Khan’s upcoming visit to China will provide an opportunity to both the countries to further explore new vistas of cooperation,” he added.

The ambassador said both the countries are set to begin the second phase of Free Trade Agreement. Under the FTA, Jing said, China will provide market access to 90 per cent of Pakistani commodities on zero rated duties, while Pakistan will give market access to 65 per cent tariff lines.

Yao Jing said the FTA between Pakistan and China would be singed on April 28 besides other important agreements related to CPEC during visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

He said the second round of FTA had finally concluded after eight years of negotiation between the two countries and the final agreement would be signed by the commerce ministers of the two countries during the visit of Pakistan’s PM.

The envoy said under the CPEC’s industrial cooperation, first Special Economic Zone at Rashakai was going to be inaugurated later this month where 20 factories would be installed initially.

He assured that the employment in the SEZs would be taken from the local resources and latest technology would be transferred from China to Pakistan.

He informed that cooperation under industrial and social sectors would be the main focus of second phase of CPEC.

“There are six areas under social sector including education, health, agriculture, water, irrigation, and poverty alleviation in which around 26 new projects will be initiated in Pakistan,” he said.

Jing said two model villages would be built in Pakistan under social sector cooperation of CPEC aimed at uplift the living standard of low income segment of the society.

With respect to the multi-billion Railway ML1 project, the envoy said that the technical aspects of the project had already been finalised and this project would hit the ground soon.

He also invited the neighbouring countries to become part of the mega project as it was not only beneficial for China and Pakistan but for the whole region.

Jing said under 11 out of 22 projects had already been completed while work on the remaining 11 projects was going fast adding that on all of these projects an amount of $19 billion had been invested by the Chinese side out of which $13 billion were comprised of commercial loans whereas the remaining loan of $6 billion was concessionary loan to be paid by the Pakistani government with a repayment period of 25-30 years.