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China, Tajikistan eye free trade zone in agriculture

2013-09-05 09:06 China Daily Web Editor: qindexing

China and Tajikistan are discussing the possibility of establishing a free trade zone in bordering counties to expand trade in agricultural products, a high-ranking Tajik leader told China Daily on Wednesday.

The free trade area is likely to be in Taxkorgan Tajik autonomous county in the southwest of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, said Matlubkhon Davlatov, first deputy prime minister of Tajikistan. The county borders Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan from north to south, with an 889-km frontier.

"China and Tajikistan should make the most of their geographic proximity and economic complementarity to deepen cooperation on the basis of equality and reciprocity," Davlatov said.

Davlatov is leading the Tajik trade mission at the third China-Eurasia Expo in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang. The expo, under the theme "Opening-Up, Mutual Trust, Co-Development", has attracted 1,565 enterprises from more than 49 countries and regions.

"The third expo has signaled the great progress Eurasian countries have achieved in economic and trade cooperation," Davlatov said.

In July, the first batch of Tajik cherries was exported to the Chinese market. It was the first time that Central Asian fruit was introduced to China.

"As an important platform, the expo has helped regional states establish and further strengthen their business connections, which include promoting investment projects and sharing experiences," he said.

Tajikistan also sees the expo as an opportunity to learn from China's latest achievements in economic development, culture, and science and technology, Davlatov said. Despite the stagnant global economy, the two countries have made breakthroughs in agricultural partnership and border port construction, he added.

China and Tajikistan established a strategic partnership in May during Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon's official visit to Beijing. The two countries also promised to boost joint efforts to combat separatism, extremism and terrorism, as well as drug-related crimes.

On the issue of Afghanistan, both Beijing and Dushanbe oppose any external forces' intervention in the domestic affairs of Central Asian nations, and they warn that doing so would undermine regional stability.

"China-Tajikistan relations are characterized by deep trust, multilateral cooperation and comprehensive engagement," Davlatov stressed.

Rashid Alimov, the Tajik ambassador to China, said ahead of Davlatov's visit, "Today, we can say with responsibility that there are no problems or any 'irritants' between Tajikistan and China.

"The border issue left by history has been fully and definitively resolved, and an effective mechanism has also been put in place for bilateral relations. In essence, Tajik-Chinese cooperation reflects the real national interests of the two countries and acts as a solid backbone of regional cooperation."

China has been Tajikistan's third-largest trading partner for years, with bilateral trade volume surpassing $2 billion in 2012, 15 times that of a decade ago. China has also invested a great deal in Tajikistan's energy development and its infrastructure, including construction of the country's national power transmission grids and many major roads.

Up to 60 percent of bilateral trade goes through the high-altitude Kulma-Karasu checkpoint on the Tajik-Chinese border, Alimov said.

Tajikistan aims to seek closer ties with China's western region, Davlatov said.

"Xinjiang and Tajikistan have many similarities, and the expo is an example of the booming comprehensive business system that boosts economic exchanges and trust," he said.

Davlatov applauded the Shanghai Cooperation Organization's positive role in maintaining peace and stability in Central Asia, especially in counterterrorism, saying that Tajikistan will continue to work closely with SCO member states to safeguard regional security and expand cooperation in other areas.

"After the Bishkek summit, Tajikistan will take the chair of the SCO for the second time in the organization's short history. We are striving to make a great contribution to the development of SCO and will do our best to strengthen our cooperation," Alimov said.

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