Unlocking the integration potential of CEE member states essential for economic growth: President

ASHGABAT: President Dr Arif Alvi said on Sunday that despite all the necessary elements for economic growth, the ECO region was among the least integrated regions in terms of trade and investment, which required unlocking the potential to give impetus to growth and development.

The president, addressing the 15th Summit of Heads of State of the Organization for Economic Cooperation (OCE) in Ashgabat, said intra-regional trade among OCE members was only eight percent of their total trade.

“Unlocking the potential of regional integration will give a significant boost to growth and development in all CEE member states… The CEE region has all the elements necessary for economic integration and rapid economic growth : rich resources, enterprising people, geographical contiguity and common culture and heritage ”, he declared.

However, he said, for historical reasons, the ECO was among the least integrated regions in terms of trade, investment, finance, infrastructure, regional value chains, mobility of workforce and social integration. On the theme “Towards the future together”, the summit was chaired by the President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and in the presence of the heads of the member states of the ECO and the Secretary General, Ambassador Khusrav Noziri. The President congratulated President Berdimuhamedov for assuming the presidency of the 15th CEE summit and hoped that under his “wise leadership” member countries would be able to successfully achieve the goals of this CEE summit.

He also thanked President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Secretary General Noziri for successfully organizing all the events of the 14th Summit during the difficult times of the COVID-19 pandemic. The president said that to remain competitive, national and regional economies should evolve towards greater physical and virtual integration.

“Such integration is imperative for the ECO region. The theme you have chosen for this Summit – “On the road to the future together” – is therefore the most appropriate and the most opportune. The president called for ensuring the implementation of ECO Vision 2025 and the Islamabad Declaration, a free or preferential trade agreement; strengthening of regional institutions such as the ECO Trade and Development Bank (ETDB) and operationalization of the ECO Reinsurance Company (ERC). Calling peace in Afghanistan “the key to connectivity,” the president said that after the 40-year war ended, the country faced a humanitarian crisis and the specter of economic collapse hung over its people. He said the situation could also lead to the exodus of refugees from Afghanistan. For four decades, Pakistan hosted nearly 4 million Afghan refugees.

He said in addition to urgent humanitarian aid, countries must provide assistance to the Afghan people in key areas of health and education. “Our strategy of ‘smart lockdowns’, the strategy of compassion, generous social protection and strategic economic stimulus have saved lives and livelihoods and limited the damage to our economy.”

The President called on CEE member states to join with other developing countries to promote a common development agenda to get back on track of sustained and sustainable growth. “As the next chairman of the Group of 77 and China, Pakistan will propose such a development program, including debt restructuring, redistribution of $ 650 billion in new SDRs to developing countries, concessional financing most importantly, the mobilization of the $ 100 billion in annual climate finance by developed countries, ending the billions in illicit financial flows from developing countries and the return of their stolen assets, and the creation of a fair trading system and open and a fair international tax regime, ”he told ECO leaders.

He also invited OCE member states, as well as members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to attend the upcoming OIC Foreign Ministers’ Conference in Islamabad on March 23 of the next year – when Pakistan celebrates 75 years of independence. The President also congratulated President Aliyev on the recovery of Azerbaijani territories from foreign occupation.

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