The SCO Secretary-General supports the efforts of the SCO Business Council and the Joint Business Cooperation Centre created by its Secretariat to develop direct ties among entrepreneurs

Vladimir Norov

The SCO Business Forum was held via videoconference on 3-6 November 2020 in the form of several panel sessions and a plenary meeting to exchange views and review the results achieved.

The event was attended by representatives of government agencies as well as territorial and regional authorities of Russia, the SCO countries' chambers of commerce and industry, business circles and international organisations.

SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov pointed out in a video recording of his address to the forum that despite the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic the SCO member states continued working to promote and expand their interaction in trade, the digital economy, investment, industrial cooperation, energy and agriculture, as well as in the field of road transport and communications infrastructure.

He spoke out in support of the efforts being taken by the SCO Business Council and the Joint Business Cooperation Centre created by its Secretariat to promote collaboration among small and medium-sized businesses and the development of direct ties among entrepreneurs.

Vladimir Norov noted the growing importance of the SCO as an optimal platform for aligning national development strategies, cross-border projects and multilateral integration initiatives. This is important for economic recovery and sustainable development as well as for creating new cooperation chains.

In this context, he pointed out that the idea of a Greater Eurasian Partnership advanced by President of Russia Vladimir Putin could facilitate the development of the North-South and East-West transcontinental transport routes in the interests of the involved countries. The SCO Secretary-General emphasised the importance of Russia's and China's contribution to strengthening the transit potential of Central Asian states and to creating modern multimodal transport and logistics hubs and a modern network of regional transport routes towards sea ports. When it comes to enhancing the transit potential of the SCO countries, the implementation of projects proposed by Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan to build a China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway line and to transport cargo via the new Tashkent-Andizhan-Osh-Irkeshtam-Kashgar and Termez-Dushanbe-Kashgar routes will have a positive impact on trade in Central Asian states, the SCO Secretary-General noted.

Vladimir Norov mentioned the importance of ensuring access to modern information technology in the SCO countries, especially in their rural areas. He spoke about the importance of digitalisation and communication technology for the sustainable functioning of the economy and society as a whole.

In this context, he pointed out the importance of the Russian draft Concept of Cooperation of the SCO Member States on the Development of Remote and Rural Areas in the Digital Age and the Uzbek Statement of the Council of Heads of State on Cooperation in the Digital Economy. He added that these documents are scheduled to be adopted at the SCO summit, which will be held online on 10 November 2020. One more document to be adopted at the summit is the Action Plan for 2021-2025 to implement the SCO Development Strategy until 2025, which is designed to boost multilateral trade and economic, cultural and humanitarian cooperation, as well as to moderate the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The SCO Secretary-General expressed confidence that the economic decisions adopted at the upcoming SCO summit would help to strengthen trade and economic cooperation in the SCO space, overcome trade barriers, promote sustainable development and improve the quality of people's lives in the region.

At the same time, he pointed out that the efforts made on the SCO's public platforms, including the Business Council, would definitely bring about the desired effect in the fields of strengthening trade and economic interaction, revitalising the member states' economies and promoting neighbourliness, friendship and mutual understanding among the SCO nations.

Russia's Special Presidential Envoy to the SCO Bakhtiyer Khakimov noted the positive outcome of the forum, during which concrete practical measures had been discussed. He also expressed hope that the SCO Business Council would help to ensure the practical implementation of the declarations of intent made within the SCO and emphasised the importance of implementing the Greater Eurasian Partnership initiative in the SCO space.

Chelyabinsk Region Governor Alexei Teksler said during his address that the region is ready to expand ties with its partners in the SCO countries and updated the participants on the outcome of the SCO Heads of Regions Forum held on 29 October 2020 to promote cooperation among the member states' regions. He expressed support for the Russian initiative to hold an expert session on the forum's development issues in December 2020.

Overall, the SCO Business Forum discussed interaction between the SCO and EAEU countries, the alignment of the Eurasian associations' integration initiatives, support for small and medium-sized businesses (including the enhancement of educational standards in the digital sphere) and the sector of congresses and exhibitions during the pandemic, restoration of the supply chains and development of the digital economy in the new conditions, as well as the fight against the shadow economy.

When it comes to the alignment of cooperation between the SCO and the EAEU, the participants noted the importance of creating conditions for transition to national currencies in mutual trade and investments and the creation of common development institutions that will support investment in national currencies. They also pointed out the possibility of harmonising their currency exchange regulations and integrating their banking systems.

Following discussions on supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the participants expressed a common view on the need to create favourable conditions for their functioning in the post-pandemic period and for involving them in global value-added chains. With this aim in view, they called for more open interaction within the SCO in all spheres of operation, for promoting cooperation ties and creating a system of SME support measures within the framework of the SCO.

Regarding the promotion of the digital economy, they proposed drafting common regulations that will set out cooperation parameters, a draft SCO Development Strategy in the Field of Digital Technology and Information Cooperation. They did not rule out the possibility of creating a comprehensive digital economy that will be open to all SCO countries.

As for public-private partnership, they called on the SCO countries' professional communities to draft development strategies and submit them for approval by their national governments. The strategy should include the staged activities of the partner countries aimed at achieving acceptable practical results as soon as possible.

In conclusion, the forum participants emphasised the need to develop effective, clear, pragmatic and target-oriented interaction among the SCO countries.