ASHGABAT: President Dr Arif Alvi has underlined the need for integration among Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) states in terms of trade and investment.
Addressing the 15th Summit of the Heads of State of the ECO in Ashgabat on Sunday, the president said the intra-regional trade among ECO members is only eight percent of their total trade.
“Unlocking the potential for regional integration will provide significant impetus to growth and development in all ECO Member States. The ECO region has all the elements needed for economic integration and rapid economic growth: rich resources, enterprising people, geographical contiguity, and a common culture and heritage,” he said.
However, he said for historical reasons, the ECO is among the least integrated regions in terms of trade, investment, finance, infrastructure, regional value chains, labour mobility and social integration.
The president opined that in order to stay competitive, national and regional economies would have to move towards greater physical and virtual integration, calling for ensuring the implementation of ECO Vision 2025, the Islamabad Declaration, a free or preferential trade arrangement; strengthening of regional institutions such as the ECO Trade and Development Bank (ETDB), and operationalisation of the ECO Reinsurance Company (ERC).
President Alvi also called for advancing the transport corridors planned by the ECO under the Transit Transport Framework Agreement (TTFA) and also welcomed the operationalisation of the Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul (ITI) road corridor.
Calling peace in Afghanistan as the “key to connectivity”, the president said after the end of the 40-year war, the country had a humanitarian crisis and the specter of economic collapse looming large over its people.
“The increasingly deepening liquidity crisis threatens a financial and banking collapse, with serious social and security implications. We must all join in preventing such a disaster, which could revive chaos and conflict and the threat from terrorism in Afghanistan,” he commented.
He said besides urgent humanitarian assistance, the countries must render help to the Afghan people in the key sectors of health and education. “Frozen assets must be released to help alleviate the sufferings of the Afghan people. We must together promote economic stability and sustainability of Afghanistan as well as its early integration into the ECO and the international community.”
Alvi said the restoration of peace and stability in Afghanistan would also enable the early implementation of agreed infrastructure and integration projects including the TAPI gas pipeline; the CASA 1000 electricity grid from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to Afghanistan and Pakistan; and construction of the Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan railway line.
Recounting the economic impact of the Covid-19 with disproportionate suffering of some ECO member states having a double-digit economic contraction, the president said Pakistan has been relatively fortunate. “Our strategy of smart lockdowns, compassion, generous social protection, and strategic economic stimuli saved lives and livelihoods and restricted the damage to our economy.”
He told the regional leaders that in part, the global inflation in prices has been generated by the $27 trillion fiscal stimulus injected by rich countries to revive their economies. “Unfortunately, developing countries have not been able to secure even a small fraction of the $4.3 trillion they need to recover from the Covid crisis.”
The president called upon ECO countries to join other developing countries in promoting a common development agenda to return to the path of sustained and sustainable growth.
He also invited the ECO Member States, also the members of Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to attend the next OIC Foreign Ministers Conference in Islamabad on March 23 next year.
Separately, on the sidelines of the summit, bilateral ties were discussed in a meeting between President Dr Arif Alvi and his Iranian counterpart Seyed Ebrahim Raisi.
Alvi underscored the importance of regular convening of bilateral mechanisms between Pakistan and Iran for trade and economy, also emphasizing the utilisation of barter trade mechanism.
He expressed satisfaction at the recent operationalization of International Road Transport (TIR) shipments from Pakistan to Turkey and Azerbaijan, which would be beneficial for the entire ECO region.
Moreover, the president highlighted that Pakistan accorded highest priority to shift geo-economic prosperity and regional connectivity agenda.