ECO Secretary General interview with Iran News
Tehran, 03 February 2005
ECO States to Sign Free Trade Agreement
The Secretary General of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) Askhat Orazbay talked to IRAN NEWS in an exclusive interview.
He said: “ECO is contemplating making its member states free trade zones. After the proposal by Iran’s President Mohammad Khatami, the issue has been thoroughly studied and the member states have, in principle, given their go ahead on this matter. Of course, it should be said that not all countries have similar economic capabilities. Therefore, it may be required for some of the leading ECO members to sign up on this endeavor now and for the others, their joining the free trade agreement would be contingent on improving and further developing their economies.”
The ECO official added: “In the next two months, a meeting of ECO member states will be held in Pakistan. The free trade zone is sure to be one of the issues that will be discussed. This free trade agreement can enhance regional commerce in various sectors such as transportation, energy, etc. Moreover, the reduction of tariffs and customs formalities in free trade zones would have a favorable effect on economic, trade and commercial ties between ECO member states.”
Elsewhere, the ECO secretary general mentioned: “Total trade among ECO member states is $11 billion a year, which is less than satisfactory. But if tariffs and customs regulations are eased, the above figure could rise to $16 billion on short notice. I totally understand that some countries are unwilling to reduce tariffs at this time. They have their own unique economic priorities.”
Orazbay moreover stated: “The biggest problem, obstacle and challenge for ECO is that agreements signed among member states are implemented very slowly and with great delay. Other than the free trade zone, ECO’s other in hand and under consideration projects include the Almaty-Istanbul railway, cooperation on electricity between ECO member states, establishing a reconstruction fund for Afghanistan within ECO, etc. The Almaty-Istanbul railway project would effectively link Europe to China.”
In conclusion, he informed that even though there are applications for new members by some countries, there are no plans to expand ECO at this time. For any additional members to join, all ECO members should unanimously approve it in advance.