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Pakistan to Sign Second Free Trade Agreement With China to Boost Ailing Economy

CC0 / / Flag of Pakistan
Flag of Pakistan - Sputnik International
Pakistan and China are expected to sign several significant bilateral agreements on the sidelines of the second Belt and Road Forum (BRF) which Prime Minister Imran Khan is scheduled to attend in Beijing next week.

New Delhi (Sputnik): China will be hosting the leaders of several nations, including Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, during the three-day Belt and Road Forum (BRF) in Beijing from April 25 to 27. During his scheduled second visit to China, Imran Khan is expected to oversee the signing of several key agreements, including a second-phase free trade agreement (FTA) similar to what was inked with ASEAN countries on April 28, the Pakistan Foreign Office said.

READ MORE: China Provides $2 Billion Loan to Pakistan's Ailing Economy — Report

The new FTA is expected to provide duty-free exports from Pakistan to China. Khan will also hold bilateral talks with several other political and business leaders during his Beijing trip.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will inaugurate the second Belt and Road Forum on April 26.

"In addition to participating in the Belt and Road Forum, 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," the Pakistan Foreign Office said on Wednesday.

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The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is one of the largest projects under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and nearly 50 per cent of the project has been completed since 2014.

Last week, Imran Khan reviewed preparations for the second phase of the CPEC.

China agreed to allow Pakistan to export 313 items duty-free despite objections from its commerce ministry. The two countries will also sign a draft concessional agreement to develop the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) at Rashakai in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. Chinese firm CRBC has been tasked with the responsibility of developing the SEZ for the next 30 years. It will invest $128 million to develop the 1000-acre area on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis.

READ MORE: China Vows to Support Pakistan Amid Simmering Tension on Indian Subcontinent

Pakistan's economy is going through a difficult period, with the country's foreign-exchange reserve falling to around $6 billion earlier this year and the Asian Development Bank forecasting a further slump in economic growth to 3.9 per cent in the fiscal 2019 2019, down from 5.2 per cent in 2018.

The Belt and Road Forum is a platform for countries participating in the multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to exchange views and experiences on regional connectivity, seeking to boost policy synergy, socioeconomic development and commerce.

Leaders from 40 countries and delegations from over 100 nations, international organisations and businesses are expected to participate in the event.

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