Farzona Kayumova is a staff correspondent for JURIST in Uzbekistan and a law student at Tashkent State University of Law.
President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev hosted the 16th summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) on November 9 held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital. The Economic Cooperation Organization is a regional intergovernmental organization established in 1985 in Tehran (Iran). Its purpose is to expand trade and investment relations between the countries of South and Central Asia and the Middle East. ECO has an observer status in the UN and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The main directions of ECO cooperation are determined at the biennial summits of the leaders of the member states. Today, ten countries – Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan – have joined the ECO. Uzbekistan became a member of ECO in 1992. Since 2017, the summit of the heads of state has been held regularly every two years.
In his speech to the summit, President Mirziyoyev called for the deepening of economic cooperation between member countries in response to the dangers of the changing world political architecture. The head of state called for the adoption of the agreement on the simplification of mutual trade in the territory of the organization. At the beginning of the speech, he noted the following: “Today, the political architecture of the world is literally changing before our eyes and global reconstruction is taking place. It is important for the countries of our organization, which has a great place in these complex processes, to work together and find effective solutions to the emerging threats.”
The President noted that despite the global crisis in the world, the economies of the ECO countries show stable growth rates. In the last six years, the GDP of Uzbekistan has increased by 1.5 times, and this indicates that the country is developing economically for the future. The head of state announced that it is planned to double this economic indicator by 2030. It is planned to achieve this, first of all, by establishing a “green” economy and modern infrastructure, stimulating the private sector and creating new jobs, actively attracting foreign investments. “In this regard, we are ready to work effectively with all members of our organization, which has its voice and influence in the international arena. Because the economies of our close and good neighbors can complement each other. Common trade and transport corridors and energy and networks connect our countries inextricably. We will definitely achieve significant results in the future by jointly searching for new ‘growth points’, President Mirziyoyev said. The President noted that Uzbekistan supports the summary of the implementation of “Prospects – 2025”, which is the main document of the ECO, and thereby spoke about the annual analysis of the plans until 2025. He also announced the country’s proposals for the new “Strategic Goals of Economic Cooperation – 2035” document.
Promotion of mutual trade relations
Last year, trade between the ECO countries amounted to 85 billion dollars. “This means only 8 percent of the total foreign trade of the member states of the organization. Unfortunately, many years of efforts to conclude a preferential trade agreement are not giving the expected results. There are still many restrictions and problems on the way to creating barrier-free trade. We should openly recognize these situations and approach the situation with a new perspective in order to change them in a positive direction,” said the president. He called for the adoption of the agreement on trade facilitation within the framework of the Economic Cooperation Organization, developed by experts. According to this document, special attention is paid to the facilitation of trade in goods and services, elimination of technical and notary barriers, digitization of customs, phytosanitary and veterinary procedures, and development of electronic trade. According to preliminary calculations, through these measures, it is possible to double the volume of mutual trade by 2035.
Activation of industrial cooperation and business relations, formation and organization of industrial hubs
The head of Uzbekistan noted that the country has developed a program of joint actions to increase the flow of mutual investments, protect them and deepen industrial cooperation, and submitted it to the ECO secretariat. This document aims to promote new joint projects in the fields of chemistry, energy, geology, textiles, leather and footwear, food, pharmaceuticals and construction. “We are in favor of expanding the partnership relations of the organization with the Trade and Development Bank on this noble path,” said Shavkat Mirziyoyev. He noted that the fifth business forum held in Tashkent on November 8 with the participation of the Chambers of Commerce and many company leaders clearly showed that ECO has great potential in the private sector. “We propose to organize an interregional industrial exhibition within the framework of our organization and to hold its first event in our country in 2024,” said the President of Uzbekistan.
Guaranteed provision of energy security
The President reminded everyone that Uzbekistan aims to create 25 GW of renewable energy sources by 2030 and increase their share in the balance to 40%. This year alone, the country will launch large wind and solar power plants with a capacity of 2 GW. It is also taking the first steps in the field of “green hydrogen” production. “We are ready to open dialogue and exchange experience with all countries in these directions,” the head of state said. In order to discuss cooperation issues in detail and to carry out work on a systematic basis, a proposal was made to establish the Council of Ministers of Energy within the ECO.
Accelerating communication on climate change and environmental protection
“Currently, our countries are facing the serious consequences of these acute problems. Processes such as the melting of glaciers, shortage of water resources, desertification, dust storms, soil erosion and loss of biological diversity are of great concern,” said the President of Uzbekistan.
“Thank you for supporting our idea to create a high-level platform on environmental issues within our structure. We are ready to organize its first conference in 2024 as part of the Samarkand Climate Forum,” the head of state said.Also, the president invited the representatives of the countries to actively participate in the meeting of the committee to review the implementation of the UN Convention against Desertification, which will be held in Uzbekistan next week. “We call for the support of the Samarkand declaration in order to fight against sand and dust storms, which are becoming an increasingly serious problem at the moment,” he added.
Strengthening cooperation in the field of tourism
About 90 UNESCO World Heritage sites are located in the ECO area, and about 80 million foreign tourists visit the organization’s member countries every year. “Taking into account the increasing popularity of cross-border routes, I propose to introduce joint tourist routes and increase general tourism programs under the tourism brand “Silk Road”, said the president. The head of Uzbekistan proposed the establishment of a separate tourism advisory committee consisting of tourism administrations of member countries and leading experts at the ECO Secretariat. The President noted that his first meeting could be held next year in the city of Shahrisabz, which was declared the capital of ECO tourism.
Bringing friendly nations closer by deepening cultural and humanitarian cooperation
“Holding Culture, Art and Film Weeks alternately in our countries every year, establishing youth creative festivals and an innovative cooperation platform, strengthening mutual cooperation in fundamental scientific directions will give a strong impetus to the development of our relations.”, said Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Also, the President of Uzbekistan drew attention to the fact that this summit was being held without the participation of Afghanistan, one of the ECO members. “The people of Afghanistan cannot be left alone in the face of today’s complex problems. Active involvement of this country in regional integration processes is an indispensable and necessary condition for our sustainable development. I call on all of you to increase the provision of humanitarian aid to the Afghan people, to solve acute socio-economic problems in this country on the basis of collective responsibility and acceptable mechanisms,” said the head of state.
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