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ECO states urged for early implementation of projects involving Afghanistan

  • Qureshi says that a more targeted effort is required to identify and promote trade among ECO members
Updated 28 Nov, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has urged the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) member states to support an early implementation of the agreed projects involving Afghanistan, such as the TAPI gas pipeline, the CASA 1000 electricity grid, and the Trans-Afghan railways connecting Termez, Mazar-e-Sharif and Kabul to Peshawar.

In his statement to the 25th Council of Ministers Meeting of ECO which was held in Ashgabat on Saturday under the theme of “Into the Future Together”, Qureshi hoped that that the region will also benefit from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), adding that we must also identify, prepare and implement additional cross-border projects among the ECO countries.

He stated that a more targeted effort is required to identify and promote trade among ECO members, as envisaged in the ECO’s Trade Agreement (ECOTA).

“It is time to emulate other regional entities, such as ASEAN and African Union, by creating an ECO regional free trade zone. This will encourage larger mutual investments, common supply chains, enhanced productivity and competitiveness of ECO economies,” he added.

Qureshi said that Pakistan attaches high priority to the ECO which groups 10 of our most important regional partners. “We believe the ECO has significant potential to emerge as a powerful regional entity: resources, enterprising people, geographical contiguity and a strategic location at the centre of Eurasia,” he said.

However, due to lower production and productivity, and minimal regional integration, the ECO’s full potential has yet to be realised, he added.

He said that the ECO countries have set themselves ambitious objectives in their ‘Vision 2025’ decisions.

He said that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a major negative impact on the economies of all ECO members. To recover from the pandemic, he said that the ECO members must prioritise vaccination and the related health response. “We must insist on equity in the production, distribution and availability of the COVID-19 vaccines for all our peoples,” he added.

He further said that the member states should also accelerate realisation of the ECO Vision 2025 objectives – which are fully aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

TAPI project agreement: NA body for removing obstacles

He said that the opening of the several ECO transport corridors is the most vital objective. He also welcomed the operationalisation of the Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad (ITI) road corridor. In addition to Taftan, Pakistan has notified Gabd-Reemdan border crossing point as a TIR station, he added.

He said that the full operationalisation of the transit corridors through Afghanistan will be critical for the transit trade of all ECO members, especially its five landlocked States.

“Restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan is vital for this purpose. We must all provide humanitarian and economic assistance to Afghanistan and its people to prevent massive human sufferings and economic collapse. We must encourage the new authorities in Kabul to promote inclusive governance, respect for human rights, including women’s rights, and action against terrorism, to fully stabilise Afghanistan,” he asserted.

He said that the six-neighbour format, which Pakistan initiated, offers an effective modality to promote stabilisation in Afghanistan. “In tandem, we must support early implementation of the agreed projects involving Afghanistan: the TAPI gas pipeline, the CASA 1000 electricity grid, and the Trans-Afghan railways connecting Termez, Mazar-e-Sharif and Kabul to Peshawar. We hope that the region will also benefit from China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). We must also identify, prepare and implement additional cross-border projects among ECO countries,” he suggested.

Qureshi said that strengthening the role of ECO Bank and operationalization of ECO Reinsurance Company can positively contribute to our trade, investment and integration objectives. Financing should also be mobilized through multilateral, regional and national development banks, private markets, to achieve ECO’s trade and development objectives, he added.

As recognized in Vision 2025, he added that the ECO economies will be dynamic only if they are knowledge-based and digitalized. In this context, we welcome the establishment of the Research and Development Centre in Azerbaijan, he said, adding that this Centre could also serve as a mechanism for scientific and technology information exchange, as well as, for collaboration in R&D and technology applications.

He said that the integration of ECO members in the emerging global digital economy will determine if they can sustain dynamic growth and stay internationally competitive. “We must develop and implement ECO projects for the installation of broadband and other IT hardware and software, and the training of a digital work force,” he added.

TAPI gas pipeline project: Afghanistan to get $1bn transit royalty: Qureshi

To derive full advantage from its geographical location, he added that ECO must promote a confluence of interests and cooperation with China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). The ECO Secretariat could prepare a study on how best to develop such cooperation, he said.

Qureshi said that the ECO should also study the potential for ECO trade and mutual cooperation with all markets adjacent to the ECO region – China, Russia, Europe, ASEAN, the Gulf Cooperation Council and the African Union. This could lead to identification of specific cooperative projects with governments or entities from these regions, he added.

He said that all ECO member states are developing countries and we should work together within the Group of 77 and China to realize our common goals of prosperity and development, particularly through the implementation of the SDGs.

“The ECO should play an active and influential role within this Group. Next year, Pakistan will assume its Chair. We look forward to the support of the ECO members for advancing our shared objectives,” he said.

As members of the ECO, he added that we will also join hands in countering Islamophobia and promoting the legitimate rights of all Muslim peoples, especially the right to self-determination and liberation of the peoples of Palestine and Jammu and Kashmir.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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