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April 11, 2018

Regional connectivity, open trade key to promoting tolerance: PM

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April 11, 2018

SANYA, China: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi Tuesday said regional connectivity, open trade and increased economic growth were the key to promote tolerance and deny space to extremism.

Addressing the opening ceremony of the Boao economic forum in China's Hainan province, the prime minister said Sino-Pakistan relations found no parallel in the annals of history.

"In every sense, we are iron brothers. In our region, our friendship is the bedrock of strategic stability," he said. Abbasi said Pakistan was partnering with China to usher in a new era of peace and prosperity through enhanced connectivity. "In Pakistan today, step by step, brick by brick, a brave new Asia is taking shape."

He said the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of Belt and Road Initiative was fast reaching fruition and termed it an excellent example of an open, coordinated, and inclusive development paradigm that benefits all stakeholders.

He said the development of the deep seaport of Gwadar was proceeding at a fast track, at the southern tip of this Corridor. On completion, it would not only serve as a transit and transshipment hub, but become an economic nucleus. He said the CPEC would provide shortest maritime and overland access to Western China, Central and South Asia and the Middle East.

Speaking on the theme of “An Open and Innovative Asia for a World of greater Prosperity”, he said as home to the majority of the world population, custodian of a large portionof its natural resources and a conduit for trade by land and sea, Asia continued to demonstrate its growing centrality to the economic order.

The prime minister said Boao Forum had emerged as a leading platform shaping international discourse on Asia and its place in the world. Abbasi said in 2017, nearly one-third of worldwide economic growth came from the Asia-Pacific region, the bulk of it from China. “As the Asian Century dawns, it is incumbent upon us to realise our real potential and rediscover the wisdom that resides within.” He called for coordinated and tailored approaches to incorporate the enterprising spirit of peoples and their common aspirations for a better life.

“They must include embracing structural reform, strengthening regional institutions, increasing connectivity, leveraging technology and investing in human capital,” Prime Minister Shahid Abbasi said.

Describing development and security as intrinsically indivisible, the premier said, “Only by spreading the dividends of open trade and shared innovation we will be able to promote tolerance and amity and deny space to extremism.”

The China-Pakistan-Afghanistan trilateral framework was aimed at achieving these very objectives, he added. The prime minister said President Xi’s historic Belt and Road Initiative had become a global public good, beneficial to all and was bringing equality to an unequal world. “This visionary and futuristic initiative is a win-win proposition aimed at bringing shared prosperity for all.”

He said Pakistan saw it as an initiative of generational impact which would shape the course of the 21st century. Abbasi said; supplemented by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Silk Road Fund, the Belt and Road Initiative had spawned innovative mechanisms for development funding, which were bridging the resource gap between the needs of the developing countries and capabilities of existing International Financial Institutions.

He said Pakistan viewed China’s meteoric rise and growing stature with immense satisfaction and great pride. Over four decades of reform, China has achieved enviable growth, lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty and transformed the face of the global economy. “We have already begun reaping dividends of CPEC rail, road and infrastructure projects. CPEC investment and its spin off effects have generated thousands of jobs. 10,000MW have been added to our national grid, ameliorating our chronic energy shortages.”

The prime minister said establishment of several Special Economic Zones (SEZs) along highways and motorways was integral to CPEC plans, adding Pakistan aimed to offer tailored incentive packages for the SEZs. “We are confident that these zones will catalyze the development of innovation-based industries in Pakistan.”

The prime minister said Pakistan’s economy was growing at around 6 percent per annum, the highest in a decade. “Our capital markets have lately been upgraded from frontier to emerging market status. Over the medium-term, our growth rates are expected to surpass global averages. And by 2050, we will be the world’s fifteenth largest economy.”

He said Pakistan’s population of 207 million reflected immense human resource potential besides a large consumer base. Gelled together, these two intrinsic strengths portend immense business opportunities. Abbasi said Pakistan was home to 140 million cellular subscribers and added internet and broadband services had penetrated every nook and corner of the country and e-commerce was projected to grow into a multibillion dollar industry.

Lately, giants such as Ali Baba and telecom sector companies from around the globe, have shown strong interest in setting up facilities in Pakistan. “It is our earnest desire to see the arc of investment expand further, and to welcome entrepreneurs and investors from around the world to our SEZs.” He said connectivity remained the cornerstone of Pakistan’s plans, and was a major driving force behind its overlapping membership of regional platforms of ECO, Saarc and SCO. He said it was Pakistan’s desire to see the networks of highways, railways, energy grids and connectivity nodes spread organically region-wide.

“For the same reason, we have consistently supported trans-regional projects such as TAPI and CASA-1000.” As a new member of SCO, Pakistan aimed to play a most productive role in utilising this platform to integrate further with the region, the prime minister added.

He extended heartiest felicitations to President Xi Jinping on the successful conclusion of the two sessions and his re-election as the President, adding “under his sagacious leadership, China, I am convinced, will continue to march forward along the path of National Rejuvenation.” The prime minister concluded with a Chinese saying that, “The man who moves mountains begins by carrying away small stones.” It is time to lift stones; it is time to move mountains, he added. Earlier Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was received by President of China Xi Jinping upon arrival.

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