Beijing   -   Prime Minister Imran Khan Friday asked the participant countries of the Belt and Road Initiative to join hands in fighting climate change by planting 100 billion trees, establish tourism corridor and combat corruption.

Addressing the Opening Ceremony of the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation here at the China National Convention Center, he suggested a five-point roadmap to direct efforts and focus on the peoples of the participating countries and achievement of sustainable.

Speaking on the theme of “Shaping a Brighter Future”, Prime Minister Khan told the gathering comprising around 37 world leaders the urgency to create a poverty alleviation fund and the importance of efforts to further liberalise trade and investment flows.

The three-day meeting is being attended by 5,000 participants from more than 150 countries, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, UK Chancellor Philip Hammond, and the heads of state of the 10 Asean [Association of South-east Asian Nation] states. The United States has sent a low-level delegation, while India opted not to attend.

Premier Imran Khan used the occasion to invite the foreign leaders and delegates to avail of Pakistan's liberal foreign investment regime. He urged them to focus in particular on infrastructure, railways, dams, IT and manufacturing.

Five-point plan

Elaborating on his proposed plan, the prime minister called for joint efforts to mitigate climate change. He recalled how the provincial government in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province has successfully planted a billion trees and said that the President of Chile has also mentioned this initiative.

“We [have also] launched a nationwide project to plant 10 billion trees. I suggest we launch a joint project to plant 100 billion trees [in all BRI states] in the next two years, so that we can mitigate the effects of climate change for our coming generations.”

Imran Khan, who has been very vocal about encouraging tourism in the country, suggested establishment of a BRI Tourism Corridor to promote people-to-people contact and inter-cultural understanding.

He also suggested setting up of an office of Anti-Corruption Cooperation to combat the scourge of white-collar crime. Khan, who won a popular vote in last year’s general elections on the promise to combat corruption, pointed to the world leaders that “white-collar crimes are devastating the world.”

Speaking about the importance of fighting poverty, he spoke for creating a Poverty Alleviation Fund that can supplement individual national efforts in the fight against poverty and malnourishment.

“In Pakistan, we have recently launched a targeted poverty alleviation programme called Ehsas, or feeling.” He said it was aimed at emulating China’s spectacular success in lifting 800 million people out of poverty within a matter of decades.

Prime Minister Imran Khan also called for making concerted efforts to further liberalise trade and investment flows encouraging private sector and businesses to collaborate in public projects.

Khan congratulated President Xi Jinping and the government of People’s Republic of China for organizing the important event and said as the Belt and Road transforms from vision into reality, the gathering has provided a useful platform for taking stock and setting the agenda.

"In a world of geopolitical uncertainty, of rising inequality and barriers to trade, the BRI offers a model of collaboration, partnership, connectivity and shared prosperity," he said. He added that the BRI marks a new and distinct phase in the onward march of nations of the  world along the path of globalization.

"The presence of so many world leaders today is proof that we choose hope over despair and cooperation over confrontation." He said 122 states and 49 international organizations have signed on to BRI’s vision and described it a historic and monumental development.

Prime Minister Khan said Pakistan was proud to have partnered and pioneered with China in this transformational endeavour. "We have been among BRI’s earliest and most enthusiastic proponents."

He said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, one of BRI’s major components and one of its earliest manifestations, has made substantial progress. "Pakistan’s energy supplies have increased massively. Our critical infrastructure gaps are being plugged. Gwadar, once a small fishing village, is transforming rapidly into a commercial hub." He said the Gwadar Airport will be the largest in the country.

The premier said together Pakistan and China were entering the next phase of CPEC with greater emphasis on socioeconomic uplift, poverty alleviation, agricultural cooperation and industrial development. "We are expanding the frontiers of knowledge through closer engagement and deeper cooperation in the fields of education, innovation and technology."

He said Special Economic Zones were being set up, along the length of the Corridor, and would offer opportunities for investments for Pakistani, Chinese and foreign entrepreneurs.

The prime minister said supplementing the next phase of CPEC, the two countries would sign an expanded Pakistan-China Free Trade Agreement.

"We are changing Pakistan’s economic landscape and Insha-Allah the destiny of our people. I want to thank China and its leadership for their unwavering support for Pakistan," Imran Khan said. "Our deep-rooted friendship, partnership and brotherhood with China remains strong, resilient and unbreakable, standing tall in the face of every challenge."

Imran Khan said China’s marvellous civilization has given the world wisdom, harmony and prosperity. "It has gifted to humanity, great inventions, art and aesthetics and a culture of compassion and co-existence", and recalled the famous Chinese proverb: ‘The Ocean is vast because it rejects no rivers.’

He said Pakistan will continue to work on the basis of mutual respect and equal opportunity, with China and other BRI partners, for a better future of our people. "Pakistan will partner with all those who share the vision for a peaceful and prosperous world. We will work together to realize a future of hope and happiness," Imran Khan told the gathering.

 ‘CPEC a blessing’

The prime minister on Friday also addressed the participants of a reception hosted in his honour by China International Cultural Communication Center here in Beijing.

Khan said that the whole country was behind the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as this flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative had come as a blessing for Pakistan. “The CPEC has given us an opportunity to catch up with other nations and attract investment from China and other countries,” he said.

He observed that China was the fastest growing economy in the world now and so obviously China was main home from where the government hoped to invite investors. He however said that because of CPEC, other countries were now looking to invest in Pakistan.

The prime minister said, in the beginning, the CPEC was just a road and a couple of power stations for energy. But now it has gone far ahead. He said his government was looking forward to Chinese investment in special economic zones, which were in the process of being set up in Pakistan.

“These special economic zones are part of CPEC and we are hoping the investment from China and the relocation of Chinese industries in these special economic zones,” he added.

He pointed out that labour cost in Pakistan was low as compared to China and Pakistan would really benefit from the relocation of certain industries in Pakistan which would help increase exports and achieve economic prosperity.

Pakistan, he said, was focusing to establish peace and stability in the region and hoping for a political solution of Afghanistan through dialogues between the relevant parties. He said that peace and stability in Afghanistan was in the best interest of Pakistan as whatever happened in Afghanistan affects Pakistan border areas.

About relations with Iran, he said, “We have a decent relationship with Iran and we are trying to strengthen it.” He hoped that after the general elections in India, the two countries would resume dialogue. He remarked that unless there was peace and stability, the region could not achieve economic prosperity.

The prime minister said that the relationship between Pakistan and China had always got stronger as both the countries stood with each other in difficult times. “China has always been there for our most difficult times. And therefore there was a very strong relationship between the people of Pakistan and the people of China.”

Earlier, Chairman, China-Pakistan Friendship Association, Sha Zu Kang welcomed the prime minister and his delegation for their visit to China and expressed the confidence that the relationship between the two countries would further grow in the future.