The Republic of Turkey organized the 14th ECO Summit virtually on March 4, 2021 under the chairmanship of H.E. Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the honourable President of the Republic of Turkey. The event, convened under the theme of ‘Regional Economic Cooperation in the aftermath of COVID-19, was inaugurated by H.E. Mr. Imran Khan, the honourable Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. All the ten ECO Heads of States and the ECO Secretary General, as well as the ECO Observers, including the President of Turkish Cypriot State, Secretaries General of the Turkic Council and International Energy Charter were present in the Summit.
Prime Minister Imran Khan represented Pakistan in the 14th Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) Summit, held virtually on 4th March 2021. The theme of the Summit was “Regional Economic Cooperation in the Aftermath of Covid-19”.
In his wide-ranging opening address, the Prime Minister congratulated Turkey on successfully organizing the Summit during these challenging times. He highlighted the regional and global health and economic consequences of Covid-19, and elaborated Pakistan’s ‘people and poor-centric approach’ to tackle the pandemic. The Prime Minister highlighted his 5-point plan to provide fiscal space to developing countries to deal with the adverse socio-economic impacts of the Covid-19.
The Prime Minister stressed the importance of stemming the disturbing trends of religious discrimination and Islamophobia in different parts of the world. He underscored that COVID lockdowns had enabled the suppression of peoples in occupied territories struggling for their right to self-determination. The Prime Minister underscored the importance of rejecting any attempt to link Islam with terrorism and opposing the use of ‘freedom of expression’ to cause pain to Muslims by denigrating the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
Highlighting the need for close collaboration for enhanced connectivity, trade linkages and energy flows within the ECO region, the Prime Minister recalled the ECO Vision 2025 adopted during the 13th ECO Summit in Islamabad in March 2017. He proposed a mid-term review of progress of its implementation and expansion of requisite cooperation. The Prime Minister underscored the importance of dialogue between ECO and other regional and international organizations to advance mutually-beneficial collaboration.
The Prime Minister underlined the importance of peace and stability in Afghanistan for success of physical integration in the ECO region. He also welcomed the ECO rail connectivity projects such as Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad (ITI) commercial cargo train and stressed timely completion of cross-border energy projects such as TAPI gas pipeline and CASA-1000 electricity grid.
The Prime Minister underscored that for Pakistan, “the vision of the ECO’s regional economic integration is an essential component of a strategy to transform the tensions of geo-politics into the dividends of geo-economics.”
The Prime Minister made six specific proposals for enhanced regional economic cooperation in the aftermath of COVID-19:
i. Mobilization of national and international resources to recover from COVID-19 pandemic, as per his 5-point plan;
ii. Building of resilient health care systems to respond to such crisis in future;
iii. Development of integrated transport network to facilitate both intra-ECO trade and to serve as pathway for trade with other global economies;
iv. Establishment of ECO Investment Agency along with organization of Annual ECO Investment Fair;
v. Pursuit of trade promotion measures such as simplification of border procedures, establishment of intra-regional institutional linkages, reinforcement of existing regional mechanisms and implementation of ECOTA; and
vi. Promotion of knowledge-based economies, increased expenditures on research and development, and focus on rapid digitalization especially extension of broadband to all parts of ECO countries.
H.E. President Erdoğan, while acknowledging the significance of ECO for regional development, emphasized on the early implementation of ECO Trade Agreement (ECOTA) and other progressive initiatives aimed at pushing the process of development in the region. He noted that the COVID-19 pandemic gravely damaged the global economy and trade, straining on the existing healthcare system. President Erdoğan said: “we can only win the fight against this global debacle through strong solidarity, regional and international cooperation.” He underscored that during Turkey’s Chairmanship of the Organization, the country had remained focussed on consolidating the organization and advancing regional cooperation. He felicitated H.E. Mr. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, the honourable President of Turkmenistan for assuming the chairmanship of the ECO for 2021, extending his best wishes for the country’s success as new ECO Chair.
The honorable President of Turkmenistan, H.E. Mr. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, expressing thanks for the assigned responsibility, assured of his country’s complete support to secure the organization’s overall aims and objectives. Voicing the priority vectors of cooperation within the framework of Turkmenistan’s chairmanship of the ECO, he underlined his country’s intention to promote the organization’s work, focusing on the development of economic, cultural and humanitarian ties. He added that unfolding of the trade, transit-transport, energy, industrial and communication potential of the ECO would remain in the center of Turkmenistan’s strategy during their chairmanship of the Organization. President Berdimuhamedov considered the establishment of economic corridors as a system of sustainable routes for the movement of goods, services, investment and industrial cooperation as well as energy corridors for diversification of energy resources supplies in the region, as Turkmenistan’s key mission, with participation of Member States. He underscored that the essence of cooperation amongst ECO Member States was the geographical and historical ties, shared traditions, customs and values.
The ECO Secretary General, H.E. Dr. Hadi Soleimanpour briefed on the ECO’s recent developments made in the organization’s priority areas of cooperation, including trade & investment, transit-transport, energy, tourism as well as activities and engagements for enhanced economic connectivity in the region. He also illuminated the finalization of latest reform process to enhance the sense of owner/partnership amongst all Member States, as well as ECO’s fresh approach for making the organization more project and result-oriented. He recommended some special initiatives for stimulating the intra-regional developmental activities that underwent in the aftermath of COVID-19. The Secretary General reaffirmed ECO’s determination and support to shoulder the process of development and reconstruction in Afghanistan.
The Heads of ECO Member States commended the valuable contributions of Dr. Soleimanpour made for accelerating the realization of the organization’s agenda. Noting the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic, they highlighted the key aspects of their countries’ response to the crisis and emphasised on an enhanced collaboration amongst the Member States to mutually address the pandemic’s affects as well as joint strategy for developing the region’s healthcare system. The ECO Heads of States/Governments extended felicitations to H.E President Berdimuhamedov for Turkmenistan’s assumption of responsibilities as the new ECO Chair. In the concluding moments of the Summit, a ceremony was organized in Baku for signing the Charter of the ECO Research Centre.
It was decided that the 15th Summit of ECO will be held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, on ECO Day, 28 November 2021.