Economic Cooperation Organization

The 2nd General Conference of the Parliamentary Assembly of Economic Cooperation Organization (PAECO) was hosted by the National Assembly of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan from June 1 – 2, 2021 under the theme “Promoting Parliamentary Partnership for Regional Integration”.

The 2nd General Conference of the Parliamentary Assembly of Economic Cooperation Organization (PAECO) was hosted by the National Assembly of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan from June 1 – 2, 2021 under the theme “Promoting Parliamentary Partnership for Regional Integration“.
While inaugurating the Conference as Chief Guest, H.E. Dr. Arif Alvi, honourable President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan expressed his deep pleasure in welcoming the ECO Parliamentary Delegations. In his inaugural statement, he noted that trade and connectivity could play a central role in ensuring consistent and unified regional progress, prosperity and development, adding that the inter-regional economic integration has got momentum in the past few decades, becoming priority of the governments to improve the quality of their peoples’ lives. Dr. Alvi considered that despite some key initiatives like ECO Vision ,“ 2025, the intra-regional trade of the region stood approximately at US$ 53 billion. With eight million square kilometre of land and 500 million inhabitants as well as composing 6% of the global population, the ECO region has an ample potential to become the regional economic power through institutionalized trade policy reforms where the member nations would formulate trade policies with mutual consensus, whereas their economic block would attract enhanced domestic and foreign investments, the President underscored. He felicitated the Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan to gather the respectable members of the ECO parliaments for exploring various facets of the imperative theme of the conference. The honourable President conveyed his firm conviction, stating that PAECO’s initiatives towards viable regional integration through an open trade market within the region; an easy visa regime; promotion of an advanced communication, connectivity and transport, could noticeably develop people-to-people interactions and lead to sustainable development and poverty alleviation in the region. He assured Pakistan’s full cooperation and assistance to the Organization to secure the intended objectives for collective interest of the region.
The event’s inaugural session comprised a welcome address of the Speaker National Assembly of Pakistan H.E. Mr. Asad Qaiser and statements of chairpersons of parliaments of Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Delegation of Majilis (lower house) of Parliament of Kazakhstan participated in the conference virtually. Mr. Qaiser also presided over meeting of the Executive Council and General Conference as per Charter of the PAECO. Stressing on the crucial role of the ECO Parliaments, he noted that the aim of this Conference was to help and push the governments of the member countries to further strengthen their economic and trade relations and boost people-to-people contacts.
While addressing the ECO Parliamentarians as Chief Guest of the Conference’s conclusive session, the honourable Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, H.E. Mr. Imran Khan accentuated that parliamentary dialogue amongst the ECO Parliaments would help bring the most desirable issues to the forefront of discussions. He expressed optimism that PAECO’s conference would prove to be defining moment towards making this parliamentary forum fully operational by ratifying its Charter, identifying a viable roadmap for the respective governments of all the ECO Member States. The honourable Premier emphasized on collective efforts of the Member States for an accelerated regional development, noting that the region will become a powerhouse if regional issues were successfully resolved. He was glad to witness the event’s weight on regional trade and connectivity that he considered essential to push the socioeconomic progress in the region. Expressing his deep concerns over the disastrous environmental issues, he urged the ECO Member States to take concrete decisions to contain adverse effects of the climate change to preclude any difficulties in the future.
The ECO Secretary General, H.E. Dr. Hadi Soleimanpour, who participated in the event virtually, underscored the significance of PAECO as an important ECO pillar. He briefed the Conference about some recent activities and engagements of the Organization, especially in the six prioritized areas of mutual cooperation, including trade, connectivity, energy, tourism, economic growth and sustainable development. While acknowledging the fundamental role of PAECO to support and push the ECO’s agenda of regional development, Dr. Soleimanpour particularly sought the Parliamentarians assistance to expedite the institutionalization of regional parliamentary cooperation, speeding up the ratification process of the PAECO’s Charter as well as some core ECO Agreements and Protocols, including Agreement on Protection and Promotion of Investment (APPI), ECO Trade Agreement (ECOTA), ECO Transit Transport Framework Agreement (TTFA) and Visa Simplification Agreement (VSA). He further proposed the creation of ECO Parliamentary Branches or Special Committees in each of the respective parliaments of the Member States to back the Organization’s activities for expanded and advanced regional integration. The ECO Secretary General further emphasized that a strong and well-structured regional connectivity was genuinely needed for increasing the scope of mutual trade and other related activities in the region, considering it to be the pre-requisite for boosting intra-regional economic collaboration and transforming the landlocked member countries into land-linked nations. He also encouraged the ECO Parliamentarians to support the organization’s project-oriented approach, harmonizing and prioritizing their national development plans as well as annual budgets with ECO regional projects in six priority areas, especially in transit-transport sector, as reflected in ECO Vision 2025, to accelerate their implementation at regional level.
The Conference had four thematic sessions that included (i) Women in Leadership Roles: Leading the Agenda of Regional Connectivity; (ii) Impact of Covid-19 on SDGs implementation in the region; (iii) Role of Parliaments in enhancing Trade & Connectivity and; (iv) Advancing Tourism for Development and Poverty Alleviation. Three committees were also formed to deliberate on issues of trade, communication and connectivity, women, youth and cultural affairs.
While making her welcome remarks, the Secretary Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, Ms. Munaza Hassan said that the PAECO had enabled them to create understanding and build working relationships for their mutual benefits at regional level, noting that their cooperation on ideas and best practices signifies harmony, tolerance and respect for diversity. She believed that parliamentarians had a unique opportunity and constitutional responsibility to play a significant role in promoting peoples’ voices and safeguarding their interests, considering that women at the decision-making table are pre-requisite for lasting peace and stability in the region.
The Conference, inter alia, included discussions on the impact of COVID-19 on implementation of Sustainable Developmental Goals, the role of the parliaments in enhancing trade and connectivity, advancing tourism for development and poverty alleviation, as well as thought-provoking views and insights of the parliamentarians for promoting regional cooperation to ensure sustainable socioeconomic development in the region. The participants underscored the importance of PAECO for supporting ECO’s broad objectives aimed at promoting socio-economic development of Member States. Welcoming the entry into force of PAECO charter after ratification by Azerbaijan, it urged remaining member states to sign/ratify PAECO’s charter and reiterate the commitment to the principles and objectives of PAECO charter. It recognized the need to enhance parliamentary dialogue and interaction under the umbrella of PAECO as an effective tool in fulfilling ECO’s socio-economic objectives.
The conference strongly supported and encouraged the implementations, operationalization and strengthening of the ECO mechanisms and arrangements such as ECO Trade Agreement (ECOTA), ECO Trade and Development Bank, ECO Reinsurance Company, ECO Regional Institute for Standardization, Conformity Assessment Accreditation and Metrology (ECO ,“RISCAM), Agreement on Promotion and Protection of Investments among ECO Member States and ECO Transit Transport Framework Agreement (TTFA) and building blocks for regional cooperation and integration as well as increase in the intra-regional trade and connectivity among ECO member states.
The Islamabad Declaration was also adopted by the Conference. The main focus of the adopted document is to underscore the importance of transit trade, reducing the cost of doing business, and financial infrastructure in expanding intra-regional trade volumes. It further emphasizes on the need of simplification of visa processes for businessmen and tourists.
The Conference also welcomed the offer of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to hold the 3rd General Conference of PAECO in 2022 at Kabul.