ISLAMABAD: After remaining closed for a period of eight months for all kinds of trade activities, the Pakistan China border has been opened for bilateral trade.
The border was closed from December 2019 to March 2019 due to seasonal closure. As per a protocol signed by the two countries, the border was supposed to open on April 1, 2020. However, bilateral trade activities through the border could not be resumed due to the outbreak of the coronavirus in March 2019.
Traders from both sides of the border had since then been waiting for the opening of the only land route for bilateral trade between China and Pakistan.
According to officials, the border has been temporarily opened till August 10, 2020. However, importers and exporters claim that the border is likely to remain open for the remaining months of the season.
On Tuesday four containers of imported goods crossed the Pakistan China border to reach Pakistan.
“I am pleased to see that trade with China through Khunjerab Pass has resumed temporarily. The opening of border was a longstanding demand of the businessmen, particularly from Gilgit Baltistan, which remained closed due to COVID-19,” Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razaq Dawood said in a tweet on Wednesday while appreciating the officials of Ministry of Commerce (MoC) for their work in resolving the issue in consultation with Chinese authorities and other stakeholders.
The team at MOC must be appreciated for their hard work in resolving this issue in consultation with Chinese authorities and other stakeholders. 2/2 @ImranKhanPTI @PTIofficial @aliya_hamza @appcsocialmedia @PTVNewsOfficial @RadioPakistan
— Abdul Razak Dawood (@razak_dawood) August 5, 2020
According to the district administration of Hunza in Gilgit Baltistan, implementation of Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs) for the clearance of containers for bilateral trade between two countries is strictly being followed.
According to officials limited containers are being allowed to cross the border to ensure implementation of the SoPs.
Pakistan and China had earlier considered a proposal to resume cross border trade 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 Razaq Dawood and the Chinese ambassador where it was proposed that the border be temporarily opened so that appropriate arrangements can be made.
Representatives from Pakistan Customs, Federal Investigation Agency and National Logistics Cell advised that not more than 10 cargo trucks should be allowed to enter Pakistan from the Chinese side each day in order to avoid crowding at the Sost border.
The meeting particularly discussed issues related to opening of borders and the release of 186 containers.
Chinese ambassador said that the border can be opened on a temporary basis for the release of 186 containers as a special arrangement until the spread of Covid-19 is contained.
The Chinese ambassador further said that China and Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs should be in direct coordination to address issues pertaining to the opening of the border.
Sost dry port, or Khunjerab Pass, is the only land route located in Pakistan’s Gilgit region and Chinese underdeveloped Xinjiang region.
According to the non-government Pakistan-China Institute, border trade between China and Pakistan increased 47 per cent to $856.3 million last year. The cargo shipment between the two countries reached approximately 66,600 tonnes between January and November 2019.
According to official sources in the Gilgit Baltistan government, the border which remained closed for almost eight months, was opened for a few hours in March 2020 to facilitate the transportation of donated medical material by the Governor of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China to the Government of Gilgit Baltistan.
The governor had donated 200,000 ordinary face masks, 2,000 N-95 face masks, five ventilators, 2,000 testing kits and 2,000 medical protective clothes mainly used by doctors and paramedics.