ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: The Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Tuesday called for joint efforts to transform Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) into a formidable economic block through full exploitation of its human and material resources.
While addressing the ECO meeting after assuming Chairmanship of the 22nd Council of Ministers Meeting of the ECO in Islamabad, the advisor also identified the priority areas for ECO to help realize the dream of transforming the organization into a strong economic block.
Sartaj Aziz said that immediate attention should be paid to intra-regional trade, which is far below its potential. He called for implementation of ECO trade agreement and removal of trade and non-trade barriers besides establishing a Free Trade Area in the region.
The advisor pointed out that lack of regional connectivity was a major impediment to economic cooperation. He said that for movement of goods, there should be focus on corridor-based projects for greater connectivity different corridors.
The foreign affairs advisor said that there is need to increase the membership, scope and activities of ECO Trade and Development Bank as well as ECO Re-Insurance Company. He also proposed enhanced cooperation of public and private sectors of member states through ECO Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
Moreover, he suggested an increase in membership and ratification of ECO Science Foundation to promote scientific and technological cooperation in the region.
Sartaj Aziz also called for using the platform of parliamentary assembly of ECO to promote democratic values among member states.
Earlier, the ECO Council of Foreign Ministers began its meeting to approve Islamabad Declaration to be adopted in the 13th ECO Summit being held on Wednesday.
In his address at the ECO Council of Foreign Ministers, the Secretary General of ECO Halil Ibrahim Akca stressed the need for sustained efforts and exploring all possibilities for harnessing the full potential of the Organization for development and prosperity.
Halil Ibrahim said that population of ECO region has reached 471 million and its GDP has crossed $one trillion. He pointed out that ECO intra-regional trade has increased to 8.3 percent in 2016 as compared to 5.3 percent in 2000.
The secretary general highlighted projects and plans being implemented in different fields including trade and investment, transport, communication, energy, environment and others.
The ECO secretary general said that the ECO has signed 45 memorandum of understandings (MoUs) and agreements with UN System and other International organizations and these are at various stages of implementation. He said the ECO is in the process of development a regional framework for disaster risk reduction.
The 22nd Meeting of the Council of Ministers of the ECO followed the Senior Official’s Meeting held in Islamabad on Monday in which Senior Officials from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan participated.