ECO SG for boosting efforts to double regional trade volume

ISLAMABAD, Dec 11 (APP):Terming the current trade volume as far below the potential, Secretary General Economic Coordination Organization (ECO) Halil Ibrahim Akca on Monday called upon the ECO member states to double their joint efforts for increasing the intra-regional trade by two folds.
“ECO Vision 2025 has stipulated to double the intra-regional trade for which we need to at least re-double efforts,” he said while addressing the 28th meeting of Economic Cooperation Organisation Regional Planning Council (ECORPC) here.
He said the intra-regional ECO trade accounts for 7.64 per cent of the total trade of the ECO member states which is not comparable with peer economic blocs, therefore ECO needs to intensify efforts on this account.
The ECO’s share in global trade, he said has been stagnating around just 2 percent of the total trade of the ECO member states despite the fact that ECO has 6.2 percent of the world population.
The four-day meeting was kicked off here to review progress on the implementation of the ECO-approved programmes and projects, and to consider proposals for new programmes and projects for 2018-2019.
The inaugural session was co-chaired by minister for Interior and Planning Ahsan Iqbal and Halil Ibrahim.
The meeting is being attended by representatives of 10 ECO member countries besides high officials from the concerned federal ministries.
This forum will discuss preparations for ECO’s Special Conference on Afghanistan and will adopt the draft outcomes of the ministerial segment on Annual Work Programme 2018, calendar of events 2018 and draft ECO Advocacy Policy for Afghanistan.
Halil Ibrahim said although China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was not part of ECO but the member states of the organization were very much interested to take benefit of the corridor.
He said in view of the rapid socio-economic, political and scientific developments in the world, and taking into account the opportunities and challenges, ECO is paving the way to a territory of integrated and sustainable economies as well as free trade area achieved by highly educated societies and improved governance through enhanced cooperation.
Regarding energy sector, he informed “We are in process of developing the next ECO plan of action for energy and petroleum cooperation for teh period 2018-22, building on the achievements and shortcomings of the existing ECO plan of action (2010-15), taking into account adopted “ECO VIsion 2025” and the trending UN SDGs.
He said the envisaged new plan of action was expected to be finalized and approved by the 4th ECO ministerial meeting on Energy to be held in Turkey.
Speaking on the cooperation in agriculture sector, the ECO secretary general said the ECO had launched the ECO regional programme for food security with the technical assistance of FAO in 2004-05, which is updated several times.
He said in the ECO region besides agriculuture industry is one of the main drivers which bring nations to more prosperous and sustainable futures. He said the ECO region needs to focus on the contribution of industrial through adoption of relevant standards and criteria and establishment and enhancement of quality infrastructure in the region.
The ECO had been established in 1985 by Iran, Pakistan and Turkey which was later joined by seven new members; Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Meanwhile speaking on the occasion Ahsan Iqbal stressed the need for enhancing regional connectivity among the member states of Economic Coordination Organization (ECO) to maximize trade volume among the member states.
“Keeping in view the increasing connectivity across the world, the region requires greater collaboration to promote trade, development, peace and stability, however the people of ECO member states are still lacking direct road, rail and air links, and are facing problems in acquiring visas, which is fundamental requirement to enhancing trade.
He said the world is more connected now therefore “we need cooperation instead of confrontation.”
He said, “We need to promote road and railway connectivity and direct flights among the member states besides further facilitating visa regimes so that more and more people could visit each others country.”
The minister said the ECO Summit held in Pakistan earlier this year had chalked out a vision 2025 for ECO member states under which it was agreed to increased regional trade by two folds by 2025.
Currently, he said the total trade volume among the member states is less than 9 per cent of the overall trade volume of the member states across the globe.
The minister also stressed the need for promoting cooperation in energy sectors saying that the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-Iran (TAPI) gas pipeline project and Central Asia South Asia (CASA) energy project would also help in meeting the growing needs of electricity across the region.
Ahsan Iqbal said this region had also great potential to attract a large number of tourists from across the world for which he stressed for cooperation among the member states of ECO.
He also urged upon the member countries to work together on achieving Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations Organizations (UNO).
The minister said this conference will help exploring new ways of development and prosperity and would look forward to greater cooperation to improve regional connectivity.
He said Asia was emerging as the next continent of economic growth and it was estimated that the region contributes 52 per cent of the world’s GDP.
He said new challenges of peace and stability were growing in the region as the ECO region is located very close to the Middle East which is set on boiling point due to the recent developments in the region which has posed many challenges to peace and stability in the region.
“On behalf of ECO, we strongly condemn the announcement of the United States for making the occupied Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel,” he added.