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The closing plenary of the 31st Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO)’s Regional Planning Council (RPC) was held on 21st January 2021. Additional Secretary Mr. Asad Rafi Chandna was the head of the delegation from Pakistan’s side.
The closing session of RPC was attended by Chairman of the 31st RPC, Mr. Fateh Unlu, Secretary General ECO, Mr. Hadi Soleimanpour, delegates from Ministries of Planning and other relevant departments/institutions of the Member States.
Mr. Asad Rafi Chandna in his opening remarks complemented the brotherly country Turkey for conducting the proceedings of the 31st Regional Planning Council Meeting (RPC), being the Chair. He conveyed appreciations to Secretary General for making extra ordinary arrangements for the virtual RPC.
Mr. Asad Rafi Chandna, Additional Secretary M/o Planning Development and Special Initiatives, Pakistan thanked the brotherly country Iran, who hosts the Secretariat and facilitates the work of the organization and also expressed appreciation to all the member states for their active participation.
The successful holding of 31st RPC, being a major event of ECO, in the midst of the pandemic, needs thorough appreciation which reflects the political will of the Member States as well as the capacity of the organization to adapt in the given circumstances. ECO is an invaluable platform to further strengthen bonds through promoting connectivity & People to People contacts, promoting intra-regional trade and enhancing economic cooperation among the Member States.
Pakistan highlighted that Corona Pandemic has changed the landscapes of physical interaction and conduct of official business. Now virtual events are being held to avoid the physical presence. Mutual cooperation in the field of communicable and infectious diseases should be the focus now.
Pakistan also emphasized that countries have become cognizant of the importance of trade, investment and tourism, the three major sectors, badly affected by Covid-19 require exploration of mediums to insulate from such outbreaks in future.
Mr. Asad Rafi Chandna applauded that Islamabad Tehran Istanbul (ITI) Cargo Train is likely to resume its operation soon. The operationalization of KTAI and ITI corridors, in addition to other planned road and railway corridors is an encouraging and much awaited development from ECO platform.
With regards to financing regional projects, Pakistan further highlighted that ECO Trade Development Bank should be expanded and establish itself as a fully functional regional financial instrument which is able to finance regional projects and assist the Member States
To make ECO more representative, financially empowered and organizationally strengthened, the Specialized Agencies of ECO such as ECO Cultural Institute (Tehran), ECO Science Foundation (Islamabad) and ECO Educational Institute (Ankara) also need attention and support.
It is to be noted that major takeaways highlighted by Pakistan during 31st RPC of Economic Cooperation Organization included developing a common understanding among the member states to transform the ECO region into a zone of economic growth and collective prosperity.
Pakistan stressed need for enhanced regional cooperation and political will in all the priority areas of ECO such as Trade & Investment, Transport & Communication, Energy & Environment, Tourism, Agriculture & Industry, Sustainable Development, Judicial and Parliamentary Coordination.
Efforts to expand share in global exports were also emphasized especially in commercial services sector including transport, logistics, tourism etc.
Pakistan further asserted need of a study to identify commodity level trade complementarities based on comparative advantage indicators to provide evidence and impetus for making ECOTA ( ECO Trade Agreement) an effective instrument.
Focusing the on-going Corona Pandemic situations, Pakistan recommended to hold virtual events instead of postponing events to make the ECO platform more vibrant and effective.