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Afghanistan to jack up saffron, fruit exports to China

Afghanistan to jack up saffron, fruit exports to China

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May 11, 2017 - 12:27

KABULinfo-icon (Pajhwok): A multibillion dollar contract for the development of the Mes Aynak copper mine in central Logar province will benefit the people off both countries, the Afghanistaninfo-icon ambassador to China hopes.

China Metallurgical Group Corp. was granted the contract, still the biggest agreement Kabul has signed with a foreign firm, in 2007.  It will involve mining, construction of a $500 million power plant and a railway line from Tajikistan to Pakistaninfo-icon to support exploration.

The mine is estimated to produce about 11 million tonnes of copper in 25 years. This project will be funded entirely by MCC China under a build own operate transfer (BOOT) model. Once completed, MCC will be in charge of overall operation and management of the line.

“At the same time, we want to benefit from Chinese investments in Afghanistan. We hope the contract will be implemented fully and start to benefit the people of Afghanistan and the people of China,” Ambassador Janan Mosazai said in an interview.

Speaking to a multi-language magazine, the diplomat said over 95 percent of the current bilateral trade comprises Chinese exports to Afghanistan -- electronics, clothing, furniture and construction materials. But China has limited imports from Afghanistan.

Afghan exports largely include traditional products such as handmade carpets and jewelry made of lapis lazuli from Badakhshan province, bordering China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Afghanistan is probably the only country that has lapis.

“What we are trying to do to address the imbalance is to increase or start the export of specialty Afghan products such as Afghan saffron, which consistently wins international awards, pomegranates, pine nuts and marble and onyx, which will have a very high demand in China,” he said.

Mosazai told Beijing Review a contract for oil exploration and extraction in northern Afghanistan had been awarded to a joint venture between China National Petroleum Corp. and Watan Group. Several Chinese firms are in Afghanistan implementing projects funded by the Afghan government or by multilateral partners such as the Worldinfo-icon Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

Security cooperation, especially between the two militaries, was enhanced to a strategic level last year, he recalled, believing the partnership would have a good impact on counterterrorism, information-sharing, training and military equipment.

The neighbours, who held their first-ever strategic military dialogue in Beijing in 2016, will conduct a joint counterterrorism exercise involving our special forces in China this year -- an important milestone in terms of deepening practical cooperation between their armed forces.

In response to a query, the diplomat said Afghanistan was one of the first countries in the region to welcome the Belt and Road Initiative, a transformational proposal from Chinese President Xi Jinping. It will boost cooperation among countries in the region and beyond.

He saw the initiative as move that would help Afghanistan leverage its plans for economic integration, linkage of its infrastructure with the region and realisation of President Ashraf Ghani's vision of reviving the country’s historical role in the region as a land bridge, a centre of trade and a transit hub.

“We signed the MoU last May in Beijing, and our two presidents have identified three priority sectors under it: railways, roads and fiber optic networks. We have a five-nation railway project that will connect China through Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and onward to Iran.

“It's a critical project that will not only link China to Iran, but also connect Central Asian republics through Afghanistan to Iran and through another railway network in the east and south Afghanistan to South Asia. That's also a priority in our cooperation in the Belt and Road Initiative...”

A high-level Afghan delegation is due to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. Afghanistan is an official partner of the initiative, looking forward not only to discussions in the context of the forum, but also bilateral meetings on the issue.

PANinfo-icon Monitor/mud

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