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373 words - May 24, 2013 | © DiploNews, all rights reserved.
Mr. Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China paid an official visit to Pakistan on May 22 to 23. The latest visit to Pakistan of a Chinese official at this level took place in December 2010 with then-Premier Wen Jiabao.
According to the China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Li's visit provided an opportunity for the two countries' new political leaderships to meet. Premier Li notably met with President Asif Ali Zardari and with Nawaz Sharif, the winner of the General Elections of 2013, who is expected to serve a third term as Prime Minister of Pakistan.
They discussed the economic cooperation that has expanded significantly in recent years, said official sources. "The bilateral trade between Pakistan and China in 2012 crossed the figure of USD 12 billion for the first time. Both sides reiterated their committment to achieve a trade target of USD 15 billion in the next two-three years," a joint statement explained.
Furthermore, a growing number of Chinese companies - more than 120 already - have pumped a total investment into Pakistan, valued at USD 2 billion in 2012. For instance, the delegations emphasized the importance of the Gwadar project, a future hub of trade activities, whose port operation was recently transferred from Singapore to China. They also decided to press ahead with the second phase of negotiations on China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
The two delegations also held wide-ranging discussions on regional and international issues. President Zardari assured the Chinese delegation that the "unique relationship with China" remains "rooted in national consensus" that "transcends political divide," and "has always been the cornerstone" of Pakistan's foreign policy. Premier Li held similar statements, saying "China (is) committed to consolidate its traditional friendship with Pakistan and deepening the strategic cooperation between the two countries, (...) no matter how the international situation may evolve,"
Though Mr. Zardari thanked Mr. Li for choosing Pakistan as one of his first destinations, DiploNews thinks there was some disappointment that Mr. Li's first destination abroad since assuming office has been India. Pakistan will however continue supporting "effort aimed at bringing peace and stability to the region," Mr. Zardari said.
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