The 42nd Consultative Committee Meeting (CCM) of the Colombo Plan
New Delhi, 10-11 Feb, 2010
THE ECO SECRETARY GENERALíS STATEMENT
Her Excellency, the Secretary General of the Colombo Plan,
Distinguished delegates and Colleagues,
It is a great privilege for me to participate in the 42nd Consultative Committee Meeting of the Colombo-Plan being held in this timeless city of New Delhi. I express my profound gratitude to the organizers especially to the Government of India for inviting me to this august assembly. I would also like to express my heartfelt felicitations to the membership and the Secretariat of the Colombo Plan on the completion of 60 years of their successful regional cooperation. The sixty years of its history are marked by landmark achievements in diverse fields. During this time, the organization has achieved commendable progress and has established itself as a successful regional platform with a capacity to advance common interests, and devise collective approach to attain common goals and objectives.
This meeting is a welcome opportunity to share with you the perspective of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) on the socioeconomic development in the region and to outline some proposals to enhance our cooperation with the Colombo Plan under the MoU which was signed between the two organizations in May 2003.
ECO is a regional organization of ten countries with a population of 400 million people spread over an area of 8 million square kilometers. The overarching goal of our organization is to achieve sustainable socio-economic development in the region. Towards this end, we are enhancing regional cooperation in different areas. Trade, Investment, Transport & Communications, Energy, Agriculture, Industry, Human Resources Development, Drugs control, Environment and Tourism constitute our priorities.
Growth in intra-regional trade is essential for achieving socioeconomic development in the region. ECO region has tremendous prospects for enhanced intra-regional trade as well as increased share in global trade. The broad contours of the ECOís strategy to enhance intra and inter-regional trade, and investment include the following:
- Removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers in the region, thus providing regulatory and enabling environment for trade
- Provide and develop a favourable regulatory investment framework for optimum utilization of economic resources
- Providing assistance and support to the Member States in their accession process to WTO
- Increasing the interaction of private sector
ECO Trade Agreement (ECOTA) stands out as a major landmark achievement towards expanding trade and investment cooperation in the region. ECOTA targets serious tariff reductions to facilitate trade. This indeed is a step towards establishing ECO Free Trade Area by 2015. In the field of investment, ECO has finalized a Framework Agreement on Promotion and Protection of Investment (APPI). With the implementation of APPI, the Foreign Direct Investment inflow into the region which stood at US$35.8 billion during 2008 is likely to increase considerably. ECO has chalked out plans to increase its focus on investment related activities. Similarly to increase the involvement of the private sector in ECOís initiatives, platforms like ECO Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ECO-CCI), Women Entrepreneur Council (WEC), Forum of ECO Trade Promotion Organizations (TPOs) have been established.
With an objective to make better financial services available for trade and development projects in the ECO region, we have established ECO Trade and Development Bank, which is headquartered in Turkey. The Bank is offering financing opportunities and related services especially for the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) sector to facilitate growth of regional trade.
Efficient Transport linkages are vital for socio-economic development. Establishment of efficient transport infrastructure serves as an anchor for regional integration. It contributes to expansion of trade; to making it more competitive. The geo-strategic location of the ECO region with its borders with India, China, Russia, Europe and the Middle East; its proximity to the Persian Gulf region, gives it an added significance especially as a natural transport corridor between different regions.
ECO is rigorously pursuing a range of measures for closer integration of national transport networks, harmonization of transport regulations and facilitation of transit operations to lower transport costs, help reduce transit times and help increase and diversify trade, both at regional and international levels. Infrastructure development has to be a high priority in our region. The ECO's basic document to enhance transport cooperation is the Transit Transport Framework Agreement (TTFA). It is a comprehensive intra-regional, regulatory framework. A number of projects are underway to lay down an extensive network of rail and road network to provide efficient means of transport corridors besides improving/upgrading existing facilities/infrastructure. Our efforts have yielded positive and encouraging results. Last year, we successfully launched a demonstration container train from Islamabad to Istanbul. The container train would soon be launched on return route with better facilities. Efforts are underway to to connect the ECO container train from Istanbul in Turkey to Almaty in Kazakhstan to Urumchi in China. The Urumchi-Istanbul Train would be launched together with Bandar Abbas to Almaty train which connects China and the Central Asian countries to international markets. I can also refer to the ECO Truck Caravans from Pakistan and Turkey to Central Asia to be launched in 2010 under the TTFA. A number of other projects are in the pipeline to interconnect different parts of the region and also to establish linkages with outside the region.
Agriculture has a significant share in GDP of ECO countries and it employs nearly 40 percent of the economically active population. We have a broad ECO Regional Programme for Food Security (RPFS) prepared with the technical assistance of FAO. Under this programme, we have advanced cooperation especially in enhancing seed supply in the region, and some projects are also in processing like wheat productivity improvement, rangeland management, gene bank etc.
In view of the important role of Industrial Sector in socio-economic development and its share in national GDPís of the ECO Member States, the Organization considers it as one of the important areas of cooperation in the ECO region. We are giving special attention to Entrepreneurship and Development of Small & Medium Sized Enterprises (SME), privatization and private sector Development, Industrial Property Rights, Technology Transfer and Management, Standardization, New Technologies and Nanotechnology Network etc.
Energy is among three main priority areas of economic cooperation within the framework of ECO activities. Efforts are underway to pursue energy cooperation in ECO region, develop and promote ways and means to expand sustainable development and efficient use of indigenous energy resources for fuel and power generation and the priority fields of common interest are: transportation and trade of oil, gas, electricity and other forms of energy within and across ECO region, environmental impacts of energy exploration and use, human resource development, research and development, energy policy and planning, institutional development and effective coordination and cooperation. The ten countries that together form the ECO have significant energy endowments and some fast growing demand centers. Cooperation on energy trade both within the ECO region and with its neighbors could lead to high value economic gains and provide impetus to further regional integration. In addition, region owing to itís geographically location has a huge potential of renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, as well as hydropower generation.
ECO is unfortunately the most drug affected region of the world. This challenge cannot be addressed effectively by any individual country. Therefore, we are working at the regional level to effectively combat this canker. ECO is in process of implementing a joint project to the tune of 9.5 million Euros in collaboration with the European Commission (EC) to eradicate illicit trafficking of drugs and address associated issues in the ECO region.
In our endeavors in different areas, we have built partnerships with UN and its Specialized Agencies, international/regional organizations, financial institutions and non ECO states. In collaboration with our partners like UNIDO, FAO, UNCTAD, UNESCAP, UNECE, UNEP and IDB etc, we have been implementing joint projects in different areas like Trade, Transport, Agriculture, Industry, Energy, Environment, and Drug Control and prevention etc. Over the period of time, the successful implementation of these projects has enriched our own experience and has made significant contribution to regional integration.
We in the ECO high value our relationship with the Colombo Plan. We can benefit, from each otherís experience and best practices essentially in the areas of cooperation identified in the MoU. The recent visit of H.E. Ms. Patricia Yoon-Moi Chia, the Secretary General, to the ECO Secretariat on November 24, 2009, have revitalized the relationship and have added momentum to the pace of ongoing cooperation. We have identified some joint activities in the field of Drug control/prevention and Development of Small and Medium Enterprises, etc. The focal persons in the two Secretariats are working out the details of these joint activities.
Having said this, I believe that there is a need to intensify engagement by taking practical steps in all areas of cooperation to fully realize the potential for cooperation. With this in mind I would like to share some of my ideas like:
There exists the potential and these exists the willingness on both sides to benefit from each others expertise in areas of mutual interest. With small efforts we can make significant contributions towards realization of our common objectives. On behalf of the ECO Secretariat, I assure you of our fullest cooperation. I wish Colombo Plan every success in their future activities.
I thank you all.