Beijing hosts briefing with SCO Secretary-General

Beijing hosts briefing with SCO Secretary-General

On 23 October 2019, the SCO Secretariat hosted a briefing with SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov on the SCO Heads of Government Council (HGC) Meeting, scheduled to be held in Tashkent on 1-2 November 2019.

Chinese and foreign journalists from news agencies and other media outlets, including Renmingwang, China Radio International, CGTN, Global Times, People's Daily, TASS, RIA Novosti, People's Daily, Times of India, The Hindu, and others attended the event.

The online briefing also involved Uzbek journalists from Information Agency Dunyo, representatives of the Kyrgyz Republic's academic community, as well as the SCOLAR Network volunteer movement.

The text of the SCO Secretary-General's remarks follows below:

Today, the SCO's versatility manifests itself in the fact that the Eurasian countries have various economic advantages, an abundance of natural resources, production capacities and technological competences, as well as an investment and financial potential.

These mutually complementary factors form a solid platform for an expanded trade and economic cooperation. The SCO's economic importance is also determined by the fact that the SCO member-states are home to almost a half of the world population and produce GDP worth over $18 trillion (or 20% of the global GDP, with average country growth rates amounting to 5%). Moreover, if we calculate using purchasing power parity, the SCO will account for almost 30% of the global GDP.

All of this represents a huge potential for the growth of trade, economic, investment and innovation cooperation based on the wellbeing of the peoples of our countries.

The SCO countries favour the consistent strengthening of an open, transparent and non-discriminatory multilateral trade system based on the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Regrettably, the WTO is facing real threats caused by problems of instability and trade disputes.

The SCO is being turned into a powerful trans-regional entity and represents an optimal format for linking national strategies, trans-border projects and multilateral integration initiatives.

In this context, one of the priorities at the upcoming meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of Government will be to search for joint solutions aimed at intensifying the multilateral trade, economic, and investment cooperation between the SCO member states.

So, the meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of Government will take place in Tashkent on 1-2 November.

The prime ministers of all the SCO countries are expected to come to the capital of Uzbekistan. Also invited to attend the event are the heads of government of the SCO observer countries — Afghanistan, Belarus, Mongolia and Iran — as well as heads of a number of partner international organisations, the SCO Interbank Consortium, and the SCO Business Council.

The meeting will be chaired by Prime Minister of the Republic of Uzbekistan Abdulla Aripov.

The CHG meeting agenda is expected to include the following items:

-1- First, there will be a discussion of prospects and measures for intensifying cooperation between the SCO member states in the trade, economic and investment areas, as well as an exchange of views on a wide range of global and regional economic development issues.

The prime ministers are expected to consider how to further enhance interaction in order to form a global open economy and strengthen the multilateral trade system.

Given the steady tendency towards a more intense regional cooperation, the heads of government will focus on creating favourable conditions for expanded mutual investment by improving the investment and business climate.

Based on the premise that one of the SCO priorities is to improve the wellbeing of the peoples in the region, the heads of government will exchange views on how to continue implementing the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 and strengthen transport, energy, industrial, financial, agricultural, customs, telecommunications and other cooperation.

The meeting's final documents will reaffirm the importance of using the potential of the SCO member states and other SCO "Family" countries, international organisations and multilateral unions to form a Eurasian space for a wide-ranging, open and mutually beneficial partnership and equitable cooperation so as to achieve reliable security and joint sustainable development.

I think that the final documents will welcome the expansion of practical ties between regions of the SCO countries and emphasise the importance of effective implementation of the Programme for the Development of Interregional Cooperation of the SCO Member States approved by the SCO Bishkek Summit on 14 June 2019.

I am confident that the participants will discuss how to intensify multilateral transport cooperation, build new international transport corridors and upgrade the existing ones, design high-speed roads, create multimodal logistical centres, and implement projects to develop SCO member states' transit potential.

-2- Secondly, the Prime Ministers of the SCO member states will hear reports on the activities of the Business Council and the SCO Interbank Consortium in 2018-2019, their roles in organising interaction between the business and financial circles of the member states in the interests of developing business, trade and investment cooperation in the SCO space.

As is known, after India and Pakistan joined the SCO, the organisation's Business Council and IBC expanded with the accession of the business and financial bodies of these two countries, and, consequently, the status of these two associations rose.

Over the past year, both associations have become more active, organising conventions and exhibitions, holding large business forums and engaging public-private partnerships of the SCO member states in order to implement bilateral and multilateral projects in the organisation's space.

Other events include training courses for senior executives from the SCO member states to help familiarise companies with international rules. Much attention is paid to the development of small and medium-sized businesses and to attracting young people to entrepreneurship.

Over the past period these bodies have concentrated efforts mainly on the implementation of energy and infrastructure projects; there is an intensive interbank information exchange, and training of professional personnel has been established.

It seems that the Business Council and the IBC should play an important role in the development of modern high-tech industries, and become a catalyst in addressing employment problems.

In my opinion, the development of partnerships with representatives of the financial and business circles in observer states and dialogue partners should also be among the priorities for the Business Council and the IBС.

-3- Thirdly, it is planned that a number of significant documents will be signed at the meeting of the Council of Heads of Government (Prime Ministers).

One of the key projects to be approved at the Council meeting will be the new version of the Programme of Multilateral Trade and Economic Cooperation of the SCO Member States until 2035. The document is primarily aimed at a further increase in mutual trade and mutual investment, and the acceleration of integrated and balanced economic development in the interests of improving the living standards in the SCO countries. The previous Programme was adopted in 2003 and ends in 2020.

According to the new Programme, in the short term — until 2025, the SCO member states are to develop and begin to implement promising programmes and projects using modern innovative and green technologies.

In the medium term — until 2030 — it is planned to ensure the transformation of national economies by developing SCO rules for trade and investment, promoting the services industry and electronic commerce, as well as simplifying trade procedures.

In the long term — until 2035, the plan is to increase global competitiveness and ensure the digital transformation of the national economies across the

SCO countries by introducing digital technologies and creating favourable conditions for the gradual implementation of the free flow of goods, capital, services and technologies, as provided for by the SCO Charter.

The Programme focuses on trade and investment, banks and finance, transport and logistics, industry, agriculture, energy, customs, innovation, information and communication technologies, spatial development, interregional interaction, tourism, the environment, education and other priority areas for cooperation.

The Programme's implementation will be entrusted to the relevant ministries, agencies, special working groups and economic entities of the SCO member states.

This work will be coordinated by the SCO Secretariat and the Council of External Trade and Economy Ministers of the SCO Member States.

The Programme is generally aimed at stipulating the obligations of the parties in various areas of cooperation. It will give a new impetus to the coordinated partnership between the SCO member states.

Another important document to be approved is the Concept on Interaction between SCO Railway Administrations (railways).

This document should help to tap the region's huge transport potential to a greater extent and promote joint SCO rail projects. Today, the SCO countries account for a total of 244,000 kilometres of railway track. We see steady growth in freight volume by rail from China to Kazakhstan, Russia, and on to Europe, as well as to Central Asian and the Gulf countries, since the shortest transport routes from China to Europe and the Middle East cross Russia and Central Asia.

As is common knowledge, the amount of freight volume through the two railway crossing points on the Kazakhstan-China border was about 14 million tonnes in 2018, or 38 percent more than in previous year. Compared with 2010, container traffic from China to Europe has increased by 40 times. At the same time, over 23 million containers head for destinations in China, Southeast Asia and Europe annually. Yet, only 1 percent of these are carried by rail, while the other 99% are shipped by sea.

This illustrates the huge potential that the SCO member countries have yet to tap in terms of developing international rail carriage. For example, the Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan-China railway is due to become an important link in the SCO transport network as part of the East-West project. Along with the North-South sub-regional corridor, it will enable all SCO countries to access markets in Europe, East and Southeast Asia, and the Middle East as well as Mediterranean ports.

During a recent expert discussion, China proposed possible corridors through which this railway might pass to become the shortest route from China to Europe and the Middle East. As estimated by the experts, construction costs

would be fully recouped if freight volumes reach a minimum of 5 million tonnes per year.

The SCO will focus on territorial development, which implies solving a number of problems involved in remote and rural territories accessing education, medical, financial and other services as well as infrastructure. In this connection, the heads of government will endorse the start of work on a draft Concept for Cooperation between the SCO Member States in Developing Remote and Rural Territories in the Digital Era and an action plan for its implementation.

An important addition to this project is the Programme for Enhancing the Environmental Wellbeing of Cities in the SCO Member States that will be signed by the participants. A platform for an exchange of legislative and law enforcement best practices will be established under the programme. It will also help the member countries exchange advanced technologies, improve the state of the environment in their cities, promote sustainable development principles in urban areas and expand environmental interaction.

Another project — Regulations of the SCO Consortium of Economic Analytical Centres, which is also to be approved at the meeting — will outline the goals, objectives and areas of activity to be pursued by a new advisory and expert mechanism, the SCO Consortium, which will coordinate cooperation between research institutions and economic analytical centres and analyse economic interaction priorities in the SCO.

The SCO Secretariat's report on the implementation of the Programme of Multilateral Trade and Economic Cooperation between the SCO Member States for 2018 to 2019 will be approved at the meeting.

As they do every year, the SCO heads of government will adopt a Joint Communiqué, approve the 2019 SCO budget execution report and a budget for next year, and sign decisions on other issues related to the financial and organisational performance of the SCO's standing bodies.

It is planned to sign a Memorandum of Understanding between the SCO Secretariat and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on the sidelines of the meeting. The document will outline mutually beneficial areas and forms of cooperation between the two.

The documents to be approved testify to the SCO's intention to expand the horizons of comprehensive interaction for decades to come. By working in close cooperation, the SCO member states will be able to use the opportunities available in Eurasia to achieve mutually beneficial, balanced and fair rewards for the entire SCO community.

As I see it, the Tashkent meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of Government will give an important impetus to the implementation of multilateral initiatives advanced by the SCO member states, initiatives that help to facilitate mutually beneficial partner cooperation in the region, accelerate economic growth, expand transport, energy and industrial ties,

increase investment, introduce innovation and ensure employment by expanding the relevant contractual and legal infrastructure.

In conclusion, I would like to say that our organisation is really capable of becoming one of the [world's] economic centres within a relatively short term. The consolidated efforts of the member states will make an important contribution to the world financial, economic and trade system and to defining its development directions.

The SCO is an established regional association whose share of the world economy and trade is growing steadily. This means that the SCO's economic influence will only increase and it is clear that its political role in addressing global economic issues should change along with this.