9th March 2018, The 16th General Assembly, 24th Executive Committee and Specialized Committees Meetings of ECO Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ECO-CCI) were successfully held in Tehran, Iran which first time in history were attended by all 10 members countries. The Meetings were hosted by Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (ICCIMA) while the inauguration of Executive Committee and General Assembly Meetings were graced by Minister of Roads and Urban Development of the Islamic Republic of Iran Dr. Mahmoud Abbas Al khoundy as Chief Guest. The meetings were also attended by Ambassador Halil Ibrahim Acka, Secretary General ECO, the President of ICCIMA Mr. Gholem Hossein Shefei, Vice President TOBB Selcuk Ozturk, Mr. Masoud Rekabdar, Vice President ECO Trade and development Bank, Foreign Missions of ECO Countries in Tehran, Iran and Representative of Concerned Ministries of Iran. The Pakistani delegation was led by Mr. Ghazanfar Bilour, President of ECO-CCI and FPCCI.
In his address, Mr. Ghazanfar Bilour President ECO-CCI emphasized on the sustainable development, cooperation and promotion of mutual trade and investment among ECO countries. He also highlighted the intra-ECO trade statistics which indicates the minuscule share of ECO trade i.e. 7 to 8 percent in total trade of ECO region as trade is the most important determinant of economic growth and development and significantly contributes in regional integration. He urged all the member states particularly Pakistan, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Kazakhstan for taking significant and effective measures for the enhancement of intra-regional trade as these nations contributes 94 percent in trade of ECO region. He stressed the member nations for early implementation of ECOTA (a preferential trade agreement), Agreement on Protection and Promotion of Investment (APPI), ITI and KTAI train, Iran Pakistan Gas pipeline, Visa sticker scheme etc. Economic relations in the ECO region should be strengthened through isolation of the root causes of lower intra-regional trade and investment, removal of trade barriers, harmonization in trade and investment regulations, and gradual integration of the member states, he added.
During the inauguration session, Dr. Mahmoud Abbas Al khoundy Minister of Roads and Urban Development of Iran emphasized on the requirement of civilization of dialogue within the ECO quoting the experience of the other blocs such as the EU which will lead to thriving economic boost in the region. He proposed establishing a common currency, intra-regional marriages, collaboration in hardware and software industries and Automobile industry. Moreover, the Secretary General ECO Ambassador Halil Ibrahim Acka, the President of ICCIMA Mr. Gholem Hossein Shefei and Vice President TOBB Selcuk Ozturk also appreciated the efforts of President ECO-CCI and ECO-CCI Secretariat for making ECO-CCI active, significant and vibrant organ contributing to enhancement of intra-ECO trade, investment and economic relations.
Prior to the Executive Committee and General Assembly Meetings, the Specialized Committee Meetings of Trade Facilitation, Industry, Investment and SMEs Promotion, Arbitration, Tourism, Transportation, Women Entrepreneur Council and Business Rating Program were held wherein the issues related to establishment and finalization of rules and regulation of ECO Arbitration center, ECO investment conference, problems relating to SMEs sector, establishment of ECO Investment Web portal, promotion of halal industry, ECO tourism strategy, simplification and harmonization of visa procedure, financial rules and regulation, implementation of ECO Trade facilitation agreement, holding of ECO Business Forum, ECO-ASEAN and ECO SAARC Business Forum, ECO Trade Fair, early operation of ITI and KTAI trains, implementation of ECO Transit Trade Agreement etc were discussed.
ECO Trade and Development Bank also informed the house about its latest operations and its future plans with respect to providing financial facilities to private sector of ECO Countries. The house emphasized on the early implementation of ECOTA which is not yet ratified by Tajikistan and Iran hasn’t finalized its concessionary, positive and negative list of commodities.
The house appreciated ECO-CCI (Pakistan Chapter i.e. FPCCI) for their outstanding work and efforts during their three years tenure and successful holding of its statutory meetings regularly. The house also approved the FPCCI proposed logo of ECO-CCI and approved the amendment suggested in the Statute of ECO-CCI.
The Presidency of ECO-CCI was handed over to Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Vice President-ship to Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture under Article 1 and 2.1 of Statute of ECO-CCI. While the Secretariat of ECO-CCI will continue rotating amongst the founding members (Turkey, Iran and Pakistan) three years each; initially by Turkey (TOBB), followed by Iran (ICCIMA) and Pakistan (FPCCI).
Dr. Iqbal Thaheem