President Mamnoon Hussain inaugurated Bank of China’s operations in Pakistan on Tuesday, using the platform to say that the neighbouring country has emerged as a major investor and partner for Islamabad.

Addressing the ceremony in the federal capital, the president said the move will take “this historic friendship to new heights by strengthening the already existing deep relations between the two iron brothers”.

“The opening of Bank of China indicates that the benefits of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would soon start reaching the masses,” Hussain said, expressing hope that the start of operations would further speed up the pace of trade and economic cooperation between the two countries.

He added that Pakistan was a natural hub for regional trade activities because of its location at the crossroads of Central Asia, West Asia and Middle East, while CPEC had further increased its importance.

The president assured Bank of China that the government and the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) would continuously support it in expanding its operations in Pakistan.

The president said that hard work of past several years had created an excellent business environment in Pakistan and the situation was favourable for domestic and foreign investments, while the country’s strong and huge consumer market was further increasing the effectiveness of these factors.

Meanwhile, Bank of China Chairman Chen Siqing said it was a great honour to be launching operations in Pakistan, adding that the Karachi branch is the first in South Asia.

“Bank of China would strengthen brotherly relations between the two countries in the realms of financial sector as well,” said Chen.

He added that China’s progressive and fast-paced economy was ready to enter into an era of high-grade standards and emphasised that Bank of China could help Pakistan effectively reap the benefits of China’s economic prosperity.

State Bank of Pakistan Governor Tariq Bajwa welcomed the launch and said increased diversity of foreign banks would increase the country’s economic resilience.