ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: The 13th Summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) began in Islamabad on Wednesday with the theme “Connectivity for Regional Prosperity”.
In his address at the inauguration session of the 13th ECO Summit following assuming its Chairmanship, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that this Summit marks the 25th anniversary of the Organization’s expansion, and at this Summit, we want to focus on greater connectivity and trade linkages amongst our countries, in order to deliver progress to the people of the ECO region.
The prime minister said that the ECO region is not an insignificant geographical area, it represents a vast expanse of territory that is home to nearly a sixth of all humanity. He said that though the region has enormous potential, and accounts for 16 percent of the world’s population, we generate only 2 percent of the world’s trade. He said that trade within the ECO region is a small fraction of our trade with the rest of the world.
Nawaz Sharif said that the ECO can be an example of regional cooperation, which touches upon and enriches the lives of our peoples. He said that Central Asia is fast emerging as a Trans-Eurasian land bridge. Oil and gas pipelines across deserts and mountains are linking our markets while railroad networks are harbingers of our commitment to connectivity.
“I believe that the ECO’s time has truly come. It is primed to make momentous advancement, he said.
Sharif said that there has never been a more opportune time to realize our dream of “Connectivity for Regional Prosperity.”
The prime minister said that since assuming office in 2013, it has been the aim of his government to pursue a policy of “peaceful neighborhood.”
“Our vision of peace for development has consistently guided our efforts, to help create a conducive environment in which we can all achieve our true economic and development potential,” he said.
The prime minister said that peaceful settlement of longstanding disputes would go a long way in advancing this noble goal. He said that there is little doubt that as we find ways to strengthen mutual cooperation, we would be experiencing shared prosperity.
“Enhancing trade and promoting transport connectivity in the region and beyond, are at the core of our vision.”
Nawaz Sharif said that no project better symbolizes Pakistan’s conception of win-win cooperation through connectivity than the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). He said that it is gratifying that CPEC is now being recognized as a catalyst for energy infrastructure, transport connectivity and trade in the whole of South and Central Asia.
Sharif said that Pakistan’s strategic location at the crossroads of the Middle East has always been prized for South Asia, Central Asia and its economic potential. He said that Pakistan not only boasts a consumer market of 200 million people with a large and growing middle class, we will soon be providing easier, quicker and cheaper physical access to markets in the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
The prime minister said that Pakistan has the location, the political stability, and, now increasingly, the physical infrastructure to achieve our common vision for making ECO a powerful economic bloc and an engine of growth.
Sharif said that we need to work on streamlining our institutional mechanisms. The ECO Trade Agreement needs to be operationalized while respecting and accommodating each Member State’s interests and concerns.
Nawaz Sharif said that meaningful trade in the region cannot take place without better cooperation on transport infrastructure among Member States. He said that the existence of efficient trade, transit and transport corridors across the region will guarantee economic development and prosperity of our people.
The prime minister said that the adoption of the Islamabad Declaration and the ECO Vision 2025 during this Summit will reflect the consensus and resolve of ECO Member States to collectively take on the contemporary economic challenges. He said that sustained focus on the key areas identified in the Islamabad Declaration namely trade, transport and energy can lead to transformative change across the region.
The prime minister said that ECO Vision 2025 provides a realistic and achievable roadmap for accelerating economic integration that works to the common good of all our people.