China, Pakistan hold FTA talks

Islamabad, February 1:

Pakistan and China plan to hold a third round of talks next month for a free trade agreement that the longtime allies hope to sign by the end of this year, the Pakistani state news agency reported today.

The nations completed the second round of negotiations last December in Beijing, and they wanted to speed up the process so that the pact would be finished in 2006, an unidentified Chinese ministry of commerce source was quoted. The report from Beijing did not say when the March talks would begin in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. Pakistani trade officials were not immediately available for comment.

China is one of Pakistan’s chief trading partners and a key supplier of weapons to the Muslim nation. The Chinese have also been helping the Pakistanis build dams, major roads and a deep seaport in southwestern Baluchistan province.