On 26 September 2019, Minister of Investment and Foreign Trade of the Republic of Uzbekistan Sardor Umurzakov chaired the 18th meeting of SCO ministers responsible for foreign economic activities and foreign trade held in Tashkent.
The agenda included discussions on the preparations for the upcoming meeting of the SCO Heads of Government Council, the second most important event on the SCO calendar for 2019, which will be held in the capital of Uzbekistan in early November.
The delegation of the SCO Secretariat was led by SCO Deputy Secretary-General Sherali Jonon.
SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov sent his greetings to those at the meeting and highlighted the importance of the further development of economic cooperation between the member states and the attainment of the SCO's policy goals set out in the SCO Development Strategy until 2025.
"Most experts agree that over the next few decades the Eurasian macroregion will become the driving force of the global economy. The key priorities for the SCO countries, which are located at the core of the Eurasian macroregion, include the improvement of the global economic governance architecture and the further development of trade, economic and innovation cooperation," the SCO Secretary-General wrote in his message.
Vladimir Norov pointed out that "the key priorities of our joint efforts within the SCO include the development of trade and economic cooperation. The Bishkek declaration adopted by the heads of SCO states highlighted the importance of deepening regional economic interaction aimed at ensuring the sustainable socioeconomic development of the member states."
"The focus on expanding and deepening the SCO countries' cooperation in the field of transport, finance, investment, agriculture, as well as in other fields, has been growing
stronger with every passing year. At the same time, trade between the SCO member states increased by 17 percent to $305 billion last year," the message went on to say.
"This shows that we need to stimulate the joint efforts being made by the SCO countries' economic ministries and agencies and develop new approaches and mechanisms in order to boost our multilateral cooperation in the field of trade and the economy," the SCO Secretary-General wrote.
He noted that "a new wording of the Programme of Multilateral Trade and Economic Cooperation of the SCO Member States until 2035 has been drafted to accelerate our comprehensive and balanced economic development based on transparent, predictable and stable conditions. The aim of the programme above all is to increase our mutual trade and expand our investment cooperation in the interests of enhancing the wellbeing of people in the SCO member states and their standard of living."
Territorial development remains on the SCO agenda, in particular, the need to improve the accessibility of education, healthcare, financial and other services and infrastructure in the remote and rural regions. The SCO Secretary-General praised the joint efforts that had been made to draft a concept of SCO cooperation in the development of remote and rural regions in the digital age, which is to be subsequently complemented with an action plan for its implementation.
When speaking about the digitalisation of the economy and state governance, Vladimir Norov noted the absence of "a comprehensive international system of trade rules regulating e-commerce." "The initiative advanced by President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev at the Bishkek meeting of the SCO Heads of State Council this year highlights the need to create a programme for the SCO countries' cooperation in the field of cybersecurity," he said.
The SCO member states have been working consistently to create a modern network of transportation routes in the region. Their experts are coordinating documents on the development of motorways, the creation of an integrated transportation management system, as well as interaction between railway administrations.
In this context, the SCO Secretary-General pointed out "a trend for the growth of rail freight transportation from China to Kazakhstan and on to Russia and Europe, as well as Central Asian and Persian Gulf countries, because the shortest transport routes from China to Europe and the Middle East run across Russia and Central Asia."
The planned Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan-China railway line is expected to become a major part of the SCO transportation network within the framework of the East-West project. Together with the subregional corridor from Russia to India via Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Oman, it will give the SCO countries access to the Middle East markets and the Mediterranean ports.
Moreover, cooperation between the railway administrations (railroads) of the SCO members, the main principles of which are set out in the relevant concept that should be approved at the upcoming meeting of the SCO Heads of Government Council in Tashkent, as well as the digitalisation of the SCO countries' transport infrastructure will enhance the efficiency of the railway lines within the SCO and ensure a continued increase in freight transportation, Vladimir Norov noted.
He also wrote about stimulating the use of the huge tourist potential of the SCO member states, including by means of a series of events under the Eight SCO Wonders project initiated by the SCO Secretariat in order to create a common tourist route running across the territory of all the SCO member states.
The SCO Secretary-General expressed confidence that the practical results, as well as the initiatives and recommendations adopted at the meeting would help revitalise cooperation between the SCO member states in the field of trade and economy and enhance their joint efforts in this vital sphere of the organisation's activities.
The ministers attending the meeting discussed the implementation of several programmes and documents regarding multilateral trade and economic cooperation between the SCO member states, as well as a wide range of topics related to the further development of regional economic interaction. They also exchanged views on the
current state and prospects for their countries' trade, economic and investment cooperation.
The heads of the delegations have taken note of the draft report of the SCO Secretariat regarding the implementation of the Programme of Multilateral Trade and Economic Cooperation of the SCO Member States and have approved the proposed new wording of the Programme and the draft Regulations of the SCO Consortium of Analytical Centres. They also recommended that the SCO Secretariat submit these documents for approval at the upcoming meeting of the SCO Heads of Government Council, which will be held in Tashkent in November 2019.
They also approved the draft concept of SCO cooperation in the development of remote and rural regions in the digital age and agreed to prepare proposals on a mechanism for its implementation in accordance with the established procedure.
At the close of the event a final Protocol was adopted and a press release was sent out.
The meetings of SCO ministers responsible for foreign economic activities and foreign trade are intended to promote trade, economic and investment cooperation between the SCO member states.