Pakistan can play leading role in galvanising ECO: Shahid Rasheed Butt (Pakistan Today)

Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) member states should ensure regional integration through preferential tariffs, establish efficient common institutions and finalise an effective transport strategy, a business leader said Monday.

ECO members are reluctant to introduce meaningful tariff cuts and agree on the function of common institutions resulting in disappointing outcome as compared to the other regional blocks like the EU, ASEAN and GCC that are preferring trade over politics, said Patron Islamabad Chamber of Small Traders Shahid Rasheed Butt.

ECO has remained one of the least integrated region depriving seven per cent of the global population of the opportunities they deserve, he said, adding that ECO with seven landlocked countries remained far from prosperity due to political considerations, misgivings, armed conflicts, poor infrastructure and inadequate communications network.

With combined population of 436 million with shared cultural and historic affinities, combined growth rate of 5 per cent and GDP at $1.9 trillion the intra-regional trade remains at dismal 7 per cent, he observed.

A regional trade corridor linking Islamabad, Tehran and Istanbul will boost regional trade and bring EU closer to the region. Similarly, Pakistan-Iran-Turkmenistan and Pakistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan trade corridors proposed by Pakistan would link up non-coastal countries with the rest of the world.

ECO will remain an impractical unless all the members of the grouping take it seriously and start lowering barriers individually and unilaterally for the greater good, he said. Pakistan should play a leading role in reviving SCO after sanctions on Iran are lifted.