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Pakistan has tremendous trade relations with China; CPEC investments will help achieve future economic goal

ECO members must overcome security, inflation and import issues to enhance intra-regional trade

Interview with Mr Lal Dino Mari Baloch — Honorary Investment Counselor at Consulate General of Pakistan, Hong Kong

PROFILE

Mr. Lal Dino Mari Baloch was born in Khairpur Mirs in a political/landlord family. He is much involved in business rather than going to political side. He has 28 years business experiences in various fields. He is the Chief Executive of Bizz & Trade International Ltd (BTI) and few other companies since then. Under his leadership, BTI was successfully providing consultancy services besides trading natural resources, energy products, agriculture commodities and electronic products between Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, Pakistan and the Middle East. He is also Honorary Investment Counselor at Consulate General of Pakistan, Hong Kong. He has led various investment delegations from various countries to Pakistan.

PAGE: HOW WOULD YOU COMMENT ON THE 13TH SUMMIT OF THE ECONOMIC COOPERATION ORGANIZATION (ECO)?

LAL DINO MARI BALOCH: The 2017 ECO summit is the 13th summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization, held in Islamabad on March 1, 2017. I would like to highlight the various facts regarding the 13th summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO). The summit went very well and will impact positive results for the growth of member countries’ economies. The summit was preceded by the 22nd Meeting of the ECO Council of Foreign Ministers (COM) on 28 February 2017 in Islamabad. Senior Officials from Member States met on 27 February 2017 in Islamabad and stayed for the duration of the summit. This was the keen interest of member countries to focus on their respective economies.

The summit highlighted the state of affairs of ECO in the light of the new and emerging global and regional circumstances and agreed on expanding regional economic cooperation among its member states. The new ECO Vision 2025 was expanded upon and several key guidelines have been taken into account.

Pakistan plans to integrate the ECO Summit members with the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). CPEC is a mega project which can be beneficial to the member countries as well as to the whole region.

PAGE: DO YOU THINK THE 13TH SUMMIT OF THE ECONOMIC COOPERATION ORGANIZATION (ECO) WOULD HELP IN DOUBLING INTRA-REGIONAL TRADE IN THE NEXT FIVE YEAR ALONG WITH THE RAPID GROWTH IN PAKISTAN’S ECONOMY AS ITS SUSTAINABILITY INDICATES THAT THE CPEC WILL HAVE A TREMENDOUS ROLE FOR ALL MEMBER COUNTRIES?

LAL DINO MARI BALOCH: Few points can be considered among the member countries such as the local political systems, internal security, inflation control, regional foreign policies and import duties. If each member country sorts out these issues then I am confident to say that, it will be a win-win situation in the region.

PAGE: THE SUMMIT ADOPTED ISLAMABAD DECLARATION AND VISION 2025. THE DECLARATION CALLS FOR DEVELOPMENT OF TRANSPORT AND COMMUNICATION INFRASTRUCTURE, FACILITATION OF TRADE AND INVESTMENT, PROMOTION OF CONNECTIVITY WITH OTHER REGIONS, EFFECTIVE USE OF ENERGY RESOURCES AND UNDERTAKING MEASURES FOR MAKING THE ECO EFFECTIVE AND EFFICIENT. VISION 2025 UNDERSCORES PROMOTION OF COOPERATION AMONG MEMBER STATES. YOUR VIEWS:

LAL DINO MARI BALOCH: The ECO consists of predominantly Muslim-majority states as it is a trading block for the Central Asian states connected to the Mediterranean through Turkey, to the Persian Gulf via Iran, and to the Arabian sea via Pakistan. Thus the development of transport and communication infrastructure, facilitation of trade and investment, promotion of connectivity with other regions has an important role.

The current framework of ECO expresses itself mostly in the form of bilateral agreements and arbitration mechanisms between individual and fully sovereign member states. This makes ECO similar to ASEAN in that it is an organization that has its own offices and bureaucracy for implementation of trade amongst sovereign member states. Hence the Vision 2025 can be achieved easily if the implementations take place continuously.

PAGE: THE SUMMIT CRITICIZED TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS AND ECONOMIC SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAN. WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON IT?

LAL DINO MARI BALOCH: In my opinion there should not be any economic sanction and travel restriction against Iran, now. But there are few factors which Iran has to satisfy international community concerning its peaceful role globally. No doubt , Iran is big economy and it survived/sustained during the sanctions throughout decades. Iran is rich in oil and lot of natural resources. World should take benefits to strengthen the bilateral trade with Iran.

PAGE: FACTORS RESTRICTING TRADE IN THE REGION INCLUDE DIFFERENCES IN ECONOMIC SYSTEMS, LOGISTIC CONSTRAINTS DUE TO INADEQUATE TRANSPORT LINKAGES AND PROBLEMS WITH BANKING TRANSACTIONS. THE ECOTA WAS SIGNED IN JULY 2003 BUT HAS NOT BEEN IMPLEMENTED AS YET BECAUSE HALF OF THE MEMBERS ARE STILL TO ACCEDE TO IT. THE AGREEMENT IS AIMED AT REMOVING TRADE BARRIERS FOR INTRA-REGIONAL TRADE. YOUR VIEWS:

LAL DINO MARI BALOCH: My detailed views comprising the following facts: This consists of the historically integrated agricultural region of the Ferghana Valley, which allows for trade and common agricultural production in the border region of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Free trade agreements between the industrial nations of Iran and Turkey are due to be signed in 2017.

Likewise the Pakistan-Turkey Free Trade Agreement is due to be signed. Pakistan has free trade agreements with both Afghanistan and Iran which are signed and are in the process of implementation, and currently most of Afghanistan trade is through Pakistan. And the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement is designed to facilitate trade for goods and services for Central Asia via both Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is in addition to the Ashgabat agreement, which is a multi-modal transport agreement between the Central Asian states.

It has been observed the weakness in banking sectors of the member countries but necessary arrangements will take place soon to resolve this issue. Trade barriers are going to be minimized and hopefully will be solved in near future. Mutual cooperation amongst members is planned in the form of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline as well as a Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan pipeline.

Current pipelines include the Tabriz–Ankara pipeline in addition to the planned Persian Pipeline. This is in addition to the transportation of oil and gas from resource rich Central Asian states such as Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan of minerals and agriculture that complements the industrialization underway in Iran, Pakistan and Turkey.

Pakistan plans to diversify its source of oil and gas supplies towards the Central Asian states including petroleum import contracts with Azerbaijan. It has been sincerely considered that all hurdles amongst member countries will be mutually solved as soon as possible. Most important factor is to keep implementing the planned strategy for a better achievement.

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