COVID-19: China, Pakistan consider proposal to resume border trade next week

Bureau Report

KARACHI: Pakistan and China are considering a proposal to resume border trade from next week amid the coronavirus pandemic with stakeholders advising restriction on the number of cargoes to avoid crowding at the dry port.

The proposal came under discussion during a meeting between Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce Razak Dawood and the Chinese ambassador. It was proposed that the border might be opened from Wednesday (15th July) so that appropriate arrangements could be made.

Representatives from Pakistan Customs, Federal Investigation Agency and National Logistics Cell advised that not more than 10 cargo trucks might be allowed from the Chinese side each day so that crowding at Sost border might be avoided, according to the ministry of commerce.

The proposal came on the heels of the second wave of the novel coronavirus in China that turned out as the epicentre of the pandemic, however, its impact is not as severe as that of the previous outbreak.

The meeting particularly discussed the issues related to the opening of the border and release of 186 containers.

The Chinese ambassador said the border could be opened on a temporary basis for the release of 186 containers as special arrangement until the situation of coronavirus is normalised.

When the Chinese officials were informed that the ministry of commerce invited feedback from Chinese embassy and customs on certain proposals of opening modalities, the envoy responded that the Chinese and Pakistani ministry of foreign affairs should be in direct coordination to address the issues.

Both sides may consult and mutually agree on any suitable date for the opening of the border, he said, adding that the border could be operationalised at least on one-week prior notice.

Border crossing usually remains closed from the November-end to April due to winter. This time around, the normalcy has not yet returned even until July. Sost dry port, or Khunjerab Pass, is the only land route located in Pakistan’s Gilgit region and the Chinese underdeveloped Xinjiang region.

The non-government Pakistan-China Institute reported that the border trade between China and Pakistan increased by 47% to $856.3 million last year. The cargo shipment between the two countries reached approximately 66,600 tons between January and November 2019.

China is Pakistan’s largest trading partner with a bilateral trade value of nearly $16 billion with benefit oddly skewed to the Chinese side. Phase I of the China-Pakistan free trade agreement came into operation in 2007 and was widely criticised for failing to provide preferential access for Pakistani exports into the large Chinese markets.

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