Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday addressed the virtual 14th ECO Summit themed ‘Regional Economic Cooperation in the aftermath of COVID-19, where he called upon Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) to devise a joint strategy to ensure equitable access and distribution of COVID-19 vaccine for the public good. During his virtual address, Prime Minister Imran Khan also stressed on the need for mobilizing the resources of ECO countries to fight the pandemic effectively. Prime Minister Imran Khan also mentioned that the ECO members states were severely affected by the health and economic crisis unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic with over 150 million people hit by the virus and over 2.5 million lost their lives.
Prime Minister Imran Khan said that peace in Afghanistan was crucial to the success of such physical integration in the ECO region and expressed hope that the successful culmination of Intra-Afghan Negotiations would lead to durable peace and security in Afghanistan. He also called for developing an integrated transport network to facilitate both intra-ECO trade as a pathway for trade among major economies.
The foundation of ECO was aimed at to establish a single regional market for goods and services among the member states just like the European Union. However, the current framework of the ECO is based on bilateral agreements and arbitration mechanisms between the members states along with working on bilateral available opportunities. Due to certain reasons, ECO could not worked effectively to boost regional trade and investment opportunities.
The ten members ECO has a huge scope of regional integration of trade and economic activities among the members states. After inclusion of Central Asian States including Azerbaijan Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan the opportunities have increased many folds. The ECO region occupies an important geopolitical location, bordered by Russia, China, and international waters including Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea. The seven landlocked member countries can easily utilize the sea and air routes of other members states to forge a sustainable economic partnership. China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) provides the best infrastructure to ECO members states to boost their economic and trade cooperation. There are huge prospects for regional cooperation in all fields, however, a wholehearted strategy needs to be implemented by the regional leadership of ECO members states to achieve full dividends of this regional partnership.