PR No. 236 Need Emphasized For Intensification Of Mutual Trade And Economic Cooperation Within The Framework Of ECO Islamabad: December 26, 2015

The need for further intensification of mutual trade and economic cooperation within the framework of Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) was strongly emphasized at a key ECO businessmen moot in Ankara. All the noted speakers attending the 20th Executive Committee and 14th General Assembly meetings of ECO Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ECO-CCI), held in Ankara from 21-23 December 2015, echoed the same message, says a press release received from Ankara here today.

The meetings were hosted by Turkey’s Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB). The President of the Federation Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), Mian Muhammad Adrees, and also the current President of ECO-CCI, participated in the meetings at the head of an 8-member delegation from Pakistan.

The meetings were also attended by envoys of ECO member countries. Pakistan’s Ambassador to Turkey Sohail Mahmood was also present. 

Delivering his inaugural remarks, TOBB President Rifat Hisarciklio?lu underlined the need for urgent steps by ECO countries to seize the historic opportunity before them to upgrade their position in global development. Among other things, he stressed that ECO must focus on increasing intra-regional trade, evolving an appropriate arbitration mechanism to enhance business confidence, harmonizing customs procedures, and instituting measures to build connectivity through road and rail networks. He also congratulated Pakistan on its recent accession to TIR Convention.

In his address as the President of ECO-CCI, Mian Muhammad Adrees appreciated the high level of participation in this year’s meetings and also highlighted FPCCI’s efforts for promoting increased connectivity including through early operationalization of ECO Container Train as well as implementation of the TIR Convention. Mian Adrees noted that the ECO region had yet to achieve its full economic potential and lagged far behind when compared to other regional economic blocs such as EU and NAFTA. As such, there was an imperative need for ECO member countries to remove impediments in the way of increased trade, simplify customs and visa procedures, and take other requisite steps for greater economic integration of the region.

Emphasizing the historical, cultural and religious commonalities as well as economic complementarities among ECO member states, Mian Adrees suggested that ECO members could collaborate in energy and power, textiles, agriculture, construction and automotive sectors. He urged member countries to increase intra-regional trade by focusing inter alia on the implementation of ECO Trade Agreement (ECOTA), establishment of customs union, signing of Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs), linking of proposed Gwadar Kashgar motorways, and harmonization in business and financial regulations.

The ECO Secretary General, Ambassador Halil Ibrahim Akca, in his address on the occasion described trade promotion as a major priority for ECO. Noting that the ECO-CCI was an important institution, the Secretary General stressed that the ECO businessmen should intervene in the process as much as possible because more support and greater contributions were expected of them. He also highlighted the critical role of SMEs in increasing economic development in the region.

Turkey’s Minister for Development Cevdet Yilmaz, in his address as the chief guest, stated that the ECO region had a strategic location and, as such, a strategic role to play. The focus of economic activity was shifting from west to east and the emerging economies of Asia would become even more important. Given its low level of intra-regional trade, ECO had a huge potential to improve. Along with setting good objectives, it was equally important to ensure steady implementation including by identifying the means and instruments to attain the goals.

Minister Cevdat Yilmaz urged member countries to take steps for the earliest implementation of ECO Trade Agreement (ECOTA), which should ultimately pave the way for an ECO free zone. Among other things, he called for practical steps to deepen public and private sector collaboration, lift trade barriers, simplify and modernize customs procedures, invest in physical and human infrastructure, create hospitable environment for FDI inflow, enhance financial collaboration, and craft a futuristic vision for 2025.

During the two-day meetings, various sessions were held focusing on trade facilitation, transportation, tourism, arbitration, industry and investment and recommendations were formulated.

On 24 December 2015, President ECO-CCI Mian Adrees also participated in D-8 FCCI meeting held at TOBB in Ankara.