• China-Pakistan Trade Relations

China-Pakistan Trade Relations (Photo : Getty Images)

A Chinese envoy has been rarely frank in saying that China has little interest in importing Pakistan-made goods. It would be prepared to import only after Chinese factories built in Pakistan start manufacturing.

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Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Sun Weidong explained that the goods produced by Pakistan do not match the needs of China, hence causing an imbalance in the China-Pakistan trade.

But this condition will change when Chinese companies begin manufacturing the needed products in Pakistan, he said to Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) leaders during a meeting held in Islamabad as reported by several media.

The statement verifies the emerging concerns that Pakistani business may get only a little advantage from the overrated China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) since the project would benefit Chinese business at large. New infrastructure would not only give China construction deals but also create conditions suitable for building Chinese factories.

Even with China’s pledged support to Pakistan as its “iron brother,” the Chinese imports of Pakistan-made goods had a sharp decline in the first half of 2016-17, dropping to $770 million from last year’s $1.02 billion.

Though the full year data for 2016-17 is not yet released, the early indications display a sharp fall. There has been a continuous decline in Pakistan’s exports to China from $2.69 billion in 2013-14 to $1.9 billion in 2015-16.

Based on the figures, China’s pledge of a 16-fold increase in Pakistani exports is but promising the moon.

“Pakistan can enhance its exports to $35 billion for which serious efforts are needed,” Sun said as quoted by the Pakistani media.

Such statements cause a section of Pakistani intelligence and the media to voice out serious concerns.

“There is a fear lurking in the shadows of CPEC that a time will soon come when the Chinese will start dictating terms and priorities rather than negotiating them,” the Dawn, a Pakistani paper, said in a Sunday editorial.

“As an increasing number of Chinese enterprises acquire stakes in Pakistan's economy, and as the government takes out more and more loans from Chinese state-owned banks for the balance of payments support, the space to negotiate and protect our own interests diminishes,” the paper added.

The Dawn also pointed out this was apparent on how China asked Pakistan to turn down a loan offered by the Asian Development Bank and draw on a single source funding from a Chinese bank for the Peshawar-Karachi railway line project worth $8 billion.

Sun’s comment on Pakistan-made goods has further raised concerns on whether Pakistan would benefit from the CPEC or the project is just a front.