ECO must exploit untapped trade potential: PM Kakar

Published November 10, 2023
TASHKENT: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar addresses the 16th ECO Summit on Thursday.—PPI
TASHKENT: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar addresses the 16th ECO Summit on Thursday.—PPI

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar on Thursday urged Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) countries to enhance their regional share in international trade.

“Despite being blessed with natural resources, geographical linkages and cultural heritage, ECO region has been unable to exploit its true trade potential as it had just two per cent share in global trade and 8pc in intra-regional trade,” the prime minister said while addressing the 16th summit of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

The prime minister’s address encompassed an array of issues, including the ECO’s existing trade and true potential, the humanitarian situation in Gaza, Indian atrocities in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, Islamophobia as well as the ECO projects of regional connectivity.

Reiterating Pakistan’s commitment to ECO Vision 2025, Mr Kakar called for collective efforts and accelerated reforms to achieve the organisation’s objectives and region’s trade potential for bringing “colossal” economic and peace dividends.

“Let us make ECO an organisation not just of words, but actions, not just commitments but implementation,” he added.

“It is crucial for us to work collectively and diligently to realise the goals and objectives of the Organisation… Our region, if well connected, can bring colossal economic and peace dividends for our people,” he said.

The premier said in 2022, the trade within the ECO region was recorded at $39 billion against $577bn with the world and the intra-region exports also stood at $46bn.

He said the ECO Vision 2025, which was adopted by the 13th ECO summit in Islamabad had called for increasing regional trade, strengthening connectivity, operationalising major transport corridors and seeking energy security.

Calling for deliberations to expand share in the global and intra-region trade, he emphasised reducing barriers, developing infrastructure, and formulating environment-friendly and sustainable policies besides reducing poverty.

PM Kakar supported the ECO’s corridor-based approach like Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan-Afghan­istan-Iran (KTAI), Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul (ITI), Kazakh­stan, Turkmenistan and Iran (KTI) and others and said the integrated transport projects would help promote trade and connectivity.

For the revival of the Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad rail project, the prime minister said Pakistan was upgrading its rail infrastructure to speed up the flow of goods. He also called for opening more border points within the ECO region to enhance connectivity and trade.

He said the connectivity projects would also facilitate the private sector, and widen the scope of business and investment.

The prime minister told the regional leaders that Pakistan had established a one-window platform of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) bringing together all trade-related organisations under one umbrella.

The government had identified and focused on five areas of investment, including agriculture, defence production, IT (information technology), energy and mining.

Highlighting the significance of Afghanistan in regional connectivity and execution of regional projects like CASA-1000, Trans Afghan Railway and TAPI, he said Pakistan was working closely with the ECO countries to achieve the shared goal of peaceful and interconnected Afghanistan.

The prime minister also touched upon the issues of intolerance, violence and xenophobia, and called upon the ECO members and international community to work for building legal deterrence against Islamophobia while maintaining mutual respect, and harmony and co-existence.

Prime Minister Kakar thanked Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, also the chair of the 16th Summit, for their warm hospitality and ECO Secretary Ambassador Khusrav NOZIRI for his role in strengthening the Organisation.

He said as Pakistan would be holding the office of ECO secretary general next year, he expressed the hope that the member countries would extend their support to the country to help achieve the ECO objectives.

Published in Dawn, November 10th, 2023

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