Pakistan and China resolved on Thursday to redouble the efforts to tap the full potential of Gwadar port and free zone under the mega project of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The both sides also agreed to make sure that the local population of Gwadar and surrounding areas fully benefit from these projects by utilizing the massive opportunities being created in various sectors. The Governments of Pakistan and China held meetings of the two Joint Working Groups on Gwadar and Socio-Economic Development through video Conferencing. The 6th Session of the Joint Working Group on Gwadar was co-chaired by Secretary Planning Development & Special Initiatives Abdul Aziz Uqaili and Ying Xiong, Director General of the National Development & Reforms Commission of China. Secretary Economic Affairs and Maritime Affairs, representatives of Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Aviation, Defence, CPEC Authority, PPIB, GPA, Government of Balochistan, GDA as well as representatives of their counterparts in China participated in the meeting. It reviewed the implementation status of the CPEC projects in Gwadar and deliberated upon the future course of action with regard to development of Gwadar city, port and the free zone. Both sides expressed satisfaction on steady progress made on various projects including full operationalization of Gwadar Port and its inclusion in the Afghan Transit Trade route; finalization of the Smart Port City Master Plan; completion of the Pak-China Technical & Vocational Institute; substantial progress on Eastbay Expressway; commencement of work on New Gwadar International Airport and the Pak-China Friendship Hospital. It was noted that Gwadar Free Zone Phase -1 had been successfully completed, while work on the much larger Phase-II covering an area of 2221 acres had been started. The meeting emphasized on the need for finalization of Marketing and Investment Plan for Free Zone along with its implementation strategy. The meeting was informed that the plan would soon be submitted for consideration of the Cabinet Committee on CPEC. Chinese enterprises, including Zhejiang DRC, China Communication Construction Company, Zhejiang Seaport and Huazhang Technology made presentations during the meeting on their planned investments in Low Carbon Recycling Park, within the Gwadar Free Zone. Pakistan side assured the investors of full support and cooperation for their ventures. It was noted that despite the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting travel restrictions the projects in Gwadar were implemented at a steady pace. The meeting also took note of various operational issues faced by the projects during the course of the year. It was noted that several issues had been resolved through intervention of relevant authorities. Both sides resolved to address any remaining issues on priority. The meeting was also informed that the Government of Pakistan was actively implementing various projects, in close collaboration with the Provincial Government to ensure provision of all the necessary facilities in Gwadar. The projects include linking Gwadar to the national electricity grid; provision of water to Gwadar city from nearby dams; establishment of University of Gwadar and Gwadar Safe City project and certain other projects in the socio-economic domain. Meanwhile the 3rd meeting of Joint Working Group on Socio-Economic Development under CPEC was held under the co-chairmanship of Abdul Aziz Uqaili, Secretary, Planning Development & Special Initiatives and Deng Boqing, Chairman, China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA) to review the progress of current projects and deliberated on potential new projects to enhance cooperation in the Socio-Economic Development under CPEC. The Group was established in November, 2018 under CPEC framework to ensure that economic dividends of CPEC projects reach the less developed areas and peoples’ livelihood are improved. Both sides expressed satisfaction on steady progress of the 1st Batch (17 Fast Track) projects of and 2nd Batch (10 Priority) projects despite the Covid-19 pandemic. The Convenor (Pakistani side) thanked the Government and people of China for their generous support to Pakistan for tackling the Covid-19 Pandemic, especially the timely supply of vaccines. He also thanked the Chinese counterparts for their support and assistance to the Government of Pakistan for socio economic development. The Chairman of CIDCA (Convenor of Chinese side) reiterated China’s strong support for the people and Government of Pakistan and stated that the two iron brothers have always helped and supported each other. He recalled Pakistan’s support to China in the early phase of the pandemic and stated that such help is highly valued. Pakistani side shared the proposed 3rd Batch of projects for consideration of Chinese counterparts. The projects were finalized after due consultations with stakeholders including all provinces, AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan. It was decided to further enhance bilateral cooperation and implementation mechanism by constituting sub-committees at working level on both sides. The meeting was attended by representatives of federal ministries and all the provincial governments, AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan and 11 relevant departments of the Government of China. The Embassies of the two countries also joined the meeting.