The 21th Executive Meeting of ECO’s Chamber of Commerce and Industries was held in Tehran on Aug.16. (Photo: Bahareh Taghiabadi)
For the first time in the history of ECO cooperation, Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture hosted the First Meeting of ECO’s Public and Private Sector Energy and Petrochemical Consortium and Companies to strengthen energy trade
Economy, Business And Markets

ECO Seeking Renewed Trade Cooperation

The 21th Executive Committee Meeting of ECO's Chamber of Commerce and Industries was held in Tehran on Tuesday with private sector representatives of the organization calling for renewed cooperation among member states to enhance regional trade and investment.  
Mohammad Nahavandian, President Hassan Rouhani's chief of staff, told the key event that Iran's government supports the formation of multilateral engagement between the regional states as attested by its record in recent years.  
"As insecurity concerns and volatility dominate the region we live in, the best way to ensure long-term stability is to foster economic cooperation that brings with it both security and progress," he said.
The official also called upon ECO members to reflect on reasons for falling short of meeting their cooperation goals. The organization had set a goal to increase trade by its members by1% annually.
"By just reiterating the need for enhanced cooperation, we cannot make any headway … Rather we need to come up with lucrative deals to entrench trade among ourselves," he said.
Nahavandian pointed to energy cooperation as an area that holds significant potential for clinching long-term lucrative deals among ECO members. Some 15% of oil and 24% of gas reserves of the world are held by ECO members.
"It's good that both the supply side and the demand side exist in ECO," he said.
For the first time in the history of ECO cooperation, Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture hosted the First Meeting of ECO's Public and Private Sector Energy and Petrochemical Consortium and Companies to strengthen energy trade among ECO members on 16-17 August.
The meeting had a special emphasis on B2B dialogue in the areas of oil, gas and petrochemical products within the region.
Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkmenistan are oil and gas producing and exporting countries while Pakistan and Turkey are oil importing countries.   
Established in 1985 by Iran, Pakistan and Turkey, ECO is a regional organization that works to promote economic, technical and cultural cooperation among its member states. The focus on the economic field is to foster commerce through the removal of trade barriers and development of a transport infrastructure.
In 1992, the organization was expanded to include seven members, namely Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Nahavandian also called for a bigger role for ECO's Trade and Development Bank for financing the regional projects. He asked, in particular, for the promotion of the strategic alliance between the three major members of ECO—Iran, Pakistan and Turkey.
The official emphasized that to combat terrorism and violence in the region, all should join hands to disseminate prosperity since "despair" and "unemployment" are breeding grounds for terrorism and extremism.

Exchange of Experience
Abdul Rauf Alam, president of ECO's Chamber of Commerce and Industries, said in his introductory comments to the assembly that sustainable economic development of member states through the progressive removal of trade barriers  and economic liberalization and privatization is one of the principles of  ECO.
"ECO is mainly an economic alliance while in the present context more than 90% of economic progress and activities belong to the private sector," he said.
Alam drew attention to the fact that about 3.5 billion people account for more than 50% of the total world population. He called for sharing the wealth of knowledge and experience among member states.
"Pakistan and Turkey have good experience of financial markets and intermediaries, including central and commercial banking, DFIs [Development Finance Institutions] and investment companies, credit rating agencies and audit firm," he said.
He also urged ECO's CCI to contribute its ideas to ECO's Vision 2025 and participate in the plan proposed by ECO's members last year.
The plan urges ECO to pave the way for a territory of integrated and sustainable economies as well as free trade achieved by highly educated societies and improved governance through enhanced cooperation.
Rifat Hisarcikloioglu, president of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey, also made some proposals for easing trade between ECO countries.
Hisarcikloioglu called for visa waivers among the member states, enhancement of intra-regional trade and the promotion of transportation and trade routes.  

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