KABUL - Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul on Monday stressed the need for greater trade links among Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) states for promoting regional economic integration
Improved trade ties would help unlock the region's potential and attract foreign direct investment, he told the 20th meeting of the ECO Council of Ministers in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.
In an effort to expand regional trade synergies, the minister said in a statement from the foreign ministry that Afghanistan would host the 4th ECO Business Forum and Buyers-Sellers meetings on textile and mineral sectors in Kabul.
"We can all benefit from collectively focusing our efforts on securing freer access to markets outside the ECO region for the raw materials and finished products produced by member states," he added.
Given the inadequate investments in the region, Rassoul said investment promotion and private sector development in the region needed to be further intensified including through the ECO Trade and Development Bank.
He characterized the launch of the ECO Container Train on the Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul route, as well as the Silk Road Truck Caravan, as key milestones in paving the way for greater trade and investment in the region.
One key transport and transit strip -- originating from Afghanistan and traversing through several ECO states to Europe and beyond -- is the Black Sea corridor, according to Rassoul.
It will link Afghanistan to the Mediterranean via Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey and allow us and all other countries in the region an important additional transit and transport route to open waters.
He particularly called for the expansion of cooperation among ECO members in developing agricultural and agro-business potential of the region -- a sector providing livelihoods for a huge number of people.
The minister also referred to the Istanbul Process, an initiative launched in November 2011 to promote regional security and cooperation on Afghanistan. "And this is why we collaborated with the government of Tajikistan earlier this year in organizing the 5th Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan."
The ECO could take concrete measures for confidence building among Afghanistan's neighbors in a broad set of areas, including security, counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, trade and transit, education, disaster management as well as infrastructure development, he believed. (Pajhwok)