On 1-3 June, a delegation of the SCO Secretariat led by its Secretary-General Rashid Alimov is taking part in the work of the 21st St Petersburg International Economic Forum.
Problems related to the development of economic interaction within the SCO, the subject of discussion at the panel session The SCO and Prospects for the Development of Broad Eurasian Partnership held as part of this authoritative forum, generated great interest among its participants. Representatives of government bodies from the SCO member states, business people, academics and experts as well as journalists and analysts from world media outlets packed the session room. The speakers included: Minister for Commerce of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, Tofail Ahmed; Member of the Board, Minister for Trade of the Eurasian Economic Commission, Veronika Nikishina; Director of the Institute for Economic Comparative Studies, Shanghai Institute for International Studie, Xin Li; Russia's Special Presidential Envoy to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, Bakhtier Khakimov; Deputy Minister of Economic Development of the Russian Federation, Alexey Gruzdev; Director of the Centre for Integration Studies, Eurasian Development Bank (EDB), Evgeny Vinokurov; Minister of Information and Communications Technology of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mahmoud Vaezi.
The session included a substantive discussion of ways to further increase trade and economic interaction within the SCO, including in the context of the vision of the vast Eurasian space as an integral system of connections among its states. There was an in-depth discussion of new growth points and potential opportunities opening up in connection with the expected accession of India and Pakistan. The issue of SCO participation in forming broad Eurasian partnership was discussed from many angles.
"The economic interdependence of the SCO member states stems from their geographical proximity and the agreements within the association, understandings and joint development programmes for the regional economy," Rashid Alimov said in his speech.
India and Pakistan are expected to become full-fledged members of the SCO at the Astana Summit on 8-9 June 2017, at which point, the Secretary-General of the SCO explained, "eight countries will be united by the shared idea of joint progressive development, which is the key goal of interaction within the SCO."
The SCO Secretary-General also noted that after the accession of India and Pakistan to the organisation, which has been a regional forum focused largely on Central Asia, would acquire a new quality and would effectively become a transcontinental organisation with an area of responsibility from the Arctic to the Indian Ocean north to south and from Lianungan in China to Russia's Kaliningrad east to west. The eight member states will account for 40 percent of the Earth's population.
"The transcontinental character of the SCO means the association can be viewed as a unique link connecting the Asia-Pacific and Atlantic regions with the countries of South Asia and the Middle East. In this connection further development of interaction with ASEAN countries has a big future. The SCO area is becoming the nucleus of the Eurasian continent because the organisation is at the very centre of unfolding large-scale economic initiatives. These include: the formation of the Silk Road Economic Belt, implementation of the One Belt One Road strategy, integration processes within the EAEU, the prospect of the formation of broad Eurasian partnership," Rashid Alimov stressed.
The SCO Secretary-General highlighted the Agreement among the SCO member states on establishing favourable conditions for international road transport that came into force on 20 January 2017 which provided a legal framework for parity conditions for road carriers and laid a uniform basis for international road transport from Eastern Europe to the eastern coasts of Russia and China.
Rashid Alimov added, "The significance of the document is hard to overestimate, above all because it goes far beyond cooperation among SCO member states in the transport sphere. Thus, it will have a big impact on the prospects of development and expansion of trade and economic cooperation on the whole Eurasian space, and stimulate investment in interconnected infrastructure projects. We are also talking about further simplifying the formalities and procedures of visa issuance, border, customs, transport, phytosanitary and veterinary control in the process of international road transport."
In conclusion the SCO Secretary-General noted that "the further conceptual articulation of the vision of the broad Eurasian partnership with due account for the national economic development strategies of ‘the SCO member states, the implementation of the integration project in the framework of the EAEU, the promotion of China's One Belt One Road initiative and targeted action to expand cooperation between the SCO and ASEAN will help to unify the current economic processes in the Eurasian region and on its borders for the purpose of economic cooperation and prosperity of nations."
The St Petersburg International Economic Forum (PIEF) is an annual business forum on economic cooperation and development held in St Petersburg since 1997. The forum's main participants are leaders of major Russian and foreign companies, heads of state and political leaders, prime ministers, deputy prime ministers, ministers and governors.
SPIEF 2017 is being attended by some 12,000 delegates, including 39 ministers of foreign countries and 870 company heads. More than 100 events will be held as part of the forum.