Saadat Hassan

Pakistan and ECO: Potentials for Developing a More Active Regional Block

Date of publication : January 25, 2017 08:57 am
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7th Meeting of ECO Council of Heads of Customs Administrations at Hotel Espinas in Tehran, Iran on October 19, 2016
 
7th Meeting of ECO Council of Heads of Customs Administrations at Hotel Espinas in Tehran, Iran on October 19, 2016
 
The ECO is an intergovernmental organization consists of three Asia countries and seven Eurasian nations established in 1985 by Iran, Pakistan and Turkey for the purpose of promoting economic, technical and cultural cooperation among the Member States and its common objective is to create a free trade area /single market for goods and services, much like to the EU and ASEAN. ECO is the successor organization of Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD) which remained in existence since 1964 up to 1979.

The ECO region is full of bright trading prospects. Despite its young age, ECO has developed into a thriving regional organization. Its international stature is growing. Nevertheless, the organization faces daunting challenges with respect to realization of its objectives and goals. Most importantly, the region is lacking in appropriate infrastructure and institutions which the Organization is seeking to develop, on priority basis, to make full use of the available resources in the region.

Over the past few years the member states have been collaborating to accelerate the pace of regional development through their common endeavors. Besides shared cultural and historic affinities, they have been able to use the existing infrastructural and business links to further fortify their resolve to transfer their hopes and aspirations into a tangible reality. ECO has embarked on several projects in priority sectors of its cooperation including energy, trade, transportation, agriculture and drug control.

The Council of Ministers (COM) is the highest policy and decision-making body and is composed of Ministers of Foreign Affairs or such other representatives of the Ministerial rank as may be designated by the Government. The council of Ministers meets at least once a year by rotation among the Member States. The Council of Permanent Representatives (CPR) is consisting of the Permanent Representatives/Ambassadors of the Member States accredited to the Islamic Republic of Iran as well as to the ECO and the Director General for ECO Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Regional Planning Council (RPC) is composed of the Head of the Planning Organization of the Member States or such other representatives of corresponding authorities. The General Secretariat consists of six Directorates under the supervision of the Secretary General and his Deputies. Two Specialized Agencies and six Regional Institutes are acting under the supervision of the General Secretariat.

Activities of ECO

1. Trade and Investment;

2. Transport and Telecommunications;

3. Energy, Minerals and Environment;

4. Agriculture, Industry and Tourism;

5. Human Resources & Sustainable Development;

6. Project & Economic Research and Statistics;

7. Sustainable economic development of Member States;

8. Progressive removal of trade barriers and promotion of intra- regional trade;

9. Greater role of ECO region in the growth of world trade;

10. Gradual integration of the economies of the Member States with the world economy;

11. Development of transport & communications infrastructure linking the Member States with each other and with the outside world;

Objective of the ECO

1. Regional cooperation for drug abuse control, ecological and environmental protection and strengthening of historical and cultural ties among the peoples of the ECO region

2. Mutually beneficial cooperation with regional and international organizations.

3. Sovereign equality of the Member States and mutual advantage;

4. Linking of national economic, development plans with ECO's immediate and long-term objectives to the extent possible;

5. Joint efforts to gain freer access to markets outside the ECO region for the raw materials and finished products of the Member States;

6. Effective utilization of ECO institutions, agreements and cooperative arrangements with other regional and international organizations including multilateral financial institutions;

7. Common endeavors to develop a harmonized approach for participation in regional and global arrangements;

8. Realization of economic cooperation strategy; and Exchanges in educational, scientific, technical and cultural fields; 

Pakistan along with Turkey and Iran is one of the three founding members of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO). ECO is generally summarized as a commercial and trade oriented organization, provides a platform that brings Pakistan and the Central and South Asian States together. Considering such goals and holding an important member position of this organization Pakistan can and is performing much important work. Its regional specific role can be said to have begun when it became a member of SEATO, CENTO and RCD. And like other regional organizations of the world it has vehemently strived to achieve the success in the mutually agreed areas of cooperation. Pakistan is situated at such a geographical location that it has significant role to do regarding the betterment of ECO. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan, as member of eight nation group South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) SAARC, are connected the ECO region to South Asian continent. Out of ten member states, seven are landlocked; Pakistan is the only country that provides a natural route to sea for 6 of these countries. ECO is striving for alleviating poverty, improving agricultural and industrial potential along with environmental control and drug control and many more. Being holding an important strategic position Pakistan in this region of rich resources is also striving for the betterment of this organization by formally participating in the growth of the sectors ECO is strived for. Pakistan has been playing a contributory role in the institutionalization of ECO. Pakistan geographical location makes it both at the crossroads of interaction for very different regions around the Asia and the very heart of intra-regional linkages. It is getting new international importance and stature through its outward-looking approach. Pakistan’s potential in telecommunication, agriculture, food, industry, trade and many other sectors made it significant as it can play its role for the betterment of rest of the member nations by providing them with assistance financially and technologically both.
 
To meet the challenges of it is imperative for each member state to increase its exports to other countries of the region. It would ensure not only enhance the intra-regional trade but also prove a source for motivating the sustainable socioeconomic development and activities in the region. Moreover, unless above mentioned challenges and constraints, faced by member states, are not settled, ECO cannot make any substantial contribution in improving cross-border connectivity, boosting trade among member countries, and strengthening regional economic cooperation process of the region.
 
The last (21st) ECO Summit was held in October 2012 in Azerbaijan’s Capital Baku while the 21st ECO Council of Foreign Ministers Meeting took place in November 2013 in Iranian Capital Tehran. Now the 13th Meeting of the ECO Heads of State/Government is going to be hosted by Pakistan on March 1, 2017. Earlier, the Senior Officials from Member States will meet on February 27, 2017 in Islamabad to make final preparations for the ECO Council of Foreign Ministers Summit. The ECO Summit 2017 is expected to review the state of affairs of Economic Cooperation Organization in the light of the new and emerging global and regional circumstances, and agree on the course of actions ECO should follow in expanding regional economic cooperation among its member states. The new ECO Vision 2025 is also expected to be adopted in Islamabad meetings.


Saadat Hassan, PhD in international relations at Quaid-i-Azam University, Pakistan, is the expert on South Asia affairs. Contact him via: qaura1@gmail.com
 


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