Is Pakistan seeking to review CPEC agreement?

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Newly elected Pakistan government of Prime Minister Imran Khan will review its role in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and renegotiate a trade agreement signed more than a decade ago, UK Daily, citing Pakistani officials, reported on Sunday.

According to report, the ministers and the advisors of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government said the agreement “unfairly benefits Chinese companies.”

The previous government did a bad job negotiating with China on CPEC — they didn’t do their homework correctly and didn’t negotiate correctly so they gave away a lot,” The Financial Times reported, quoting Abdul Razak Dawood, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Adviser on Commerce, Textile, Industry & Production and Investment.

Dawood was reported to have said; “Chinese companies received tax breaks, many breaks and have an undue advantage in Pakistan; this is one of the things we’re looking at because it’s not fair that Pakistan companies should be disadvantaged.”

The adviser was quoted as saying: “I think we should put everything on hold for a year so we can get our act together,” he added. “Perhaps we can stretch CPEC out over another five years or so.”

Dawood is a renowned businessmen who founded Descon Engineering, which is involved in Engineering and Construction, Chemicals, Power and Inspection. It is perhaps the first Pakistani multinational company which is operating in six countries, according to commerce ministry.

The projects concerned are part of the $62bn China-Pakistan Economic Corridor plan — by far the largest and most ambitious part of the BRI, which seeks to connect Asia and Europe along the ancient silk road. It also includes a huge expansion of the Gwadar port on Pakistan’s south coast, as well as road and rail links and $30bn worth of power plants.

As per the report, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, who visited Islamabad at the weekend, indicated that Beijing could be open to renegotiating its 2006 trade deal with Pakistan.

However, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi assured his Chinese counterpart that the new government considers CPEC project as ‘immensely strategic and of national importance for Pakistan’.

“We are highly grateful for the personal attention Chinese leadership has accorded to the implementation of CPEC. CPEC will remain a priority for the Government. We will ensure that ongoing projects are implemented at the earliest and at the same time, we will explore new avenues of cooperation under CPEC,” he said during a joint press conference with Wang Yi after the two sides held detailed talks.

Moreover, Finance Minister Asad Umar and Advisor Dawood said Pakistan would be careful not to offend Beijing. “We don’t intend to handle this process like Mahathir”, Umar told FT.