Zarif Highlights ECO’s ‘Untapped Potential’ to Boost Regional Economic Cohesion
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said there is a degree of untapped potential in the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) which can help enhance “economic integration and cohesion” in the region.
“ECO remains untapped potential for economic integration and cohesion in our region. Our top agenda should be realization of an ECO Community, where peace and stability are promoted, the well-being of our people is further improved, and our common rich values prevail,” Zarif said on Saturday in an address to the 24th meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), underway in Turkey’s coastal city of Antalya.
Following is the full text of the speech:
At the outset, allow me to express my appreciation to the Government and people of the Republic of Turkey for the warm hospitality and excellent arrangements for this meeting. I would also like to pay tribute to our outgoing Chairman and our Secretary-General and his colleagues in the Secretariat for their valuable efforts.
“ECO” remains untapped potential for economic integration and cohesion in our Region. Our top agenda should be a realization of an “ECO Community”, where peace and stability are promoted, the well-being of our people is further improved, and our common rich values prevail. With a population of half a billion people, incredible geographical location, abundant energy and mineral resources, rich human resources, huge trade market, and historical and cultural affinities, the Economic Cooperation Organization possesses what it takes to be a success story for multilateral cooperation among nations.
However, the continued challenge for us is first and foremost the lack of fitting models for regional economic cooperation; a paradigm for regional economic development. Accordingly, the existing ECO regional architecture should be re-configured to this effect. “ECO Vision 2025” is our latest endeavor to enhance regional integration and connectivity in different areas of common interest, including transit and transport, energy, trade, and tourism. We need to accelerate the effective implementation of Vision 2025 through its devised schemes and mechanisms. The Council of Ministers should give full support to our sectoral ministers as well as the Secretariat to make the “Vision 2025” a significant step towards the realization of the ECO noble goals and objectives.
Corridor development and corridor management activities are considered as an institutional priority in the transport sector. We in Iran have invested huge amounts to develop the missing links. However, there are major projects awaiting implementation by the Member States, particularly Transit, Transport Framework Agreement (TTFA).
In order to increase total trade of the ECO Member States which is far below our expectations, bilateral and multilateral procedures for simplification and harmonization of regional trade are necessary to help make a trade in the region faster, cheaper and more predictable. Carrying out financial transactions with national currencies, bartering, cutting costs and reducing delays and speeding up customs clearance are some approaches that need to be strengthened.
Establishing a green tourism destination with diverse products and high-quality services in the region is an objective of ECO Vision 2025. significant potentials for tourism cooperation requires a smart plan of action. We welcome any initiative which can strengthen networking of all tourism stakeholders, establishing an e-based platform using new technologies and sharing knowledge and best practices to organize co-creation based activities.
ICT related activities can also serve as a catalyst for further progress. In this regard, we attach great importance to the implementation of the “2025 ECO Regional Strategy for Information Society Development” and Plan of Action, which was approved by the 2nd Meeting of ECO Ministers of ICT in December 2017 in Baku.
Mr. Chairman, Dear Colleagues,
No success can be envisaged unless all Member States are actively involved. The “less than full membership” arrangements/agreements have revealed their negative structural and institutional impacts on the Organization. We need to have all Member States on board in ECO activities. This, in turn, requires ECO to prove its added value for each and every single Member State.
The very objectives of the ongoing reform process, kicked-off in the 21st COM meeting in Tehran in 2013, was to enhance institutional, regulatory and operational capacities of the Organization. This can potentially lead to incredible and enhanced effectiveness, efficiency, relevance and performance of the Organization and its Secretariat. As an ECO founding member, the Islamic Republic of Iran has fully supported the reform process and rendered maximum flexibility to accommodate the interests and concerns of non-founding members. This is time to regenerate the needed momentum and agree on a promising reform outcome.
In the time of rampant blow to multilateralism, the decades-old Economic Cooperation Organization is, more-than-ever, the first best option for economic cooperation among our countries. Notwithstanding the hardship Iranian people are experiencing in the time of blatant and cruel unilateral coercive measures and economic terrorism, the Islamic Republic of Iran continues its commitment to ECO and its programs and projects. We consider ECO inter-connectivity projects in transport and transit; energy, including ECO electricity market; ICTs and digital connections; and the tourism industry as the most feasible and yielding joint ventures among our countries. The Islamic Republic of Iran remains ready and active in sharing with ECO countries its huge capacities in these sectors. This is an open call also on behalf of our private sector to its counterparts in the ECO Region.
ECO trade-related arrangements are also of great importance to the Islamic Republic of Iran. ECOTA and other required complementary intra-regional arrangements need to be operationalized, enabling “trade” to make its full contribution to the overall development and prosperity of our Region and peoples, as has been the case in other regions across the globe. Iran is fully committed to making this happen through activating or devising, necessary regional arrangements in trade-related areas such as customs and trade facilitation, monetary and banking, multi-modal transport, security, and border arrangements, combating illicit trade and smugglings, etc.
To conclude Mr. Chairman, let me remind the very important role that should be played by the ECO Secretariat in our joint journey ahead. We as the Member States need to provide necessary financial and human resources and capacities enabling Secretariat to fulfill its mandate. We appreciate the efforts of the Secretary-General and his fellow colleagues in the rest of ECO institutional machinery, namely ECO regional specialized agencies and institutions, to ensure that no approved mandate is left behind, no available resources are unexploited, and no partnerships with our traditional and new partners, particularly in the UN family, is unattended. We expect them to take more resolute measures in these areas.
I thank you for your attention.