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Pakistan, China to sign fresh trade agreements

Islamabad, Dec 18 (DPA) Pakistan and China were Saturday set to sign fresh trade agreements worth $10 billion aimed at deepening strategic and economic relations between the two countries.

The new deals will be inked at a trade summit of Chinese business representatives accompanying Premier Wen Jiabao and their Pakistani counterparts.

These come on the top of 13 agreements worth around $20 billion signed Friday after bilateral meetings.

‘It is expected that trade deals of $10 billion will be signed during the trade summit,’ Pakistani Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said.

Wen is visiting Pakistan to transform the historically defence-oriented relations into trade, economic and cultural ties to bring the two countries closer together.

Early Saturday, he joined his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani to inaugurate the Pakistan-China Friendship Centre, which Wen described as ‘a symbol of traditional friendship’.

The two sides are trying to boost cultural and people-to-people ties. China announced it would send medical experts to provide free treatment to 1,000 cataract patients over the next two years. China will also provide 500 scholarships to students over the next three years.

‘We are really thankful to China and are proud of our relations with it,’ Gilani said.

After the opening of the centre, the two leaders attended a ceremony where individuals from the two nations shared personal stories.

A Pakistani, Manzoor Hussain, said he was guarding a cemetery of 500 Chinese engineers and workers in Pakistan’s northern areas, where they died while building the Karakoram Highway, which connects the two nations through the Himalayan region.

Wen will also meet President Asif Ali Zardari at a state banquet. The leaders of all political parties, including former premier and main opposition figure Nawaz Sharif, have set aside bitter political differences to join the dinner.

China has been perceived as an all-weather friend and mainstay of Pakistan against rival India.

But China is delicately trying to balance its ties with both Pakistan and India, as Wen arrived here after visiting India with a trade delegation of over 400 and agreeing to target bilateral trade of $100 billion by 2015.

Pakistan and China were also expected to sign a deal for the construction of a nuclear power plant in Pakistan’s central province of Punjab.

China has already helped Pakistan to build two nuclear power plants, one of which is in operation while the second is nearing completion.

The nuclear cooperation has increased despite reservations in the US, which regards Pakistan’s nuclear programme as a proliferation risk.

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