SCO Summit: yet another feather in Uzbekistan’s cap

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Exclusive interview of Ambassador of Uzbekistan Oybek Usmanov to Centreline

Ambassador of Uzbekistan Oybek Usmanov gave an exclusive interview to Centreline, Daily Islamabad POST and DNA News Agency.

The Ambassador talked in detail about the SCO summit, bilateral relations and regional as well as international issues. Here are excerpts from his interview.

Shams Abbasi / Ansar M Bhatti

SCO’s role in regional integration

Ambassador of Uzbekistan to Pakistan, Oybek Arif Usmanov said that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) block had a significant role in economic and trade integration between the member countries. He said this year, Uzbekistan took over the chairmanship of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which had a lot of challenges ahead of it.

As the chair of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Uzbekistan will host the Annual Summit 2022 of the SCO Heads of State Council on September 15-16 in Samarkand. Economic and trade relations among the SCO members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization are very important, which will lead to economic and trade integration among these countries, he said. The Ambassador said that the SCO meeting has been held in Uzbekistan since September 15 this year. In the upcoming conference, transit trade and commercial cooperation between the member states will be discussing very important topics to be discussed in different sessions. In the upcoming conference, the member states will discuss very important topics related with transit trade and commercial cooperation in different sessions.

The member countries will also talk about establishing industrial zones and in this regard, the first industrial zone of SCO countries will be established in Samarkand region, Uzbekistan. For the first time, discussions on the promotion of digital transformation and poverty reduction in the SCO space will be available to the member countries to benefit from the experiences of one another. The eradication of poverty and economic development will be the main focus of this conference, which will provide an opportunity for mutual cooperation and dialogue to the member states. The Uzbek Ambassador said that Pakistan and Uzbekistan have a very important role to play in providing trade and economic integration to the SCO member states, which will usher in a new era of economic integration in all member countries.

The SCO member countries could play a key role in global and regional economic and trade integration in the current scenario. The SCO has important member states in terms of geo-economic and geopolitical position, including developed countries, which can play an important role in the development of global and regional economies through this organizational platform. Information technology and renewable energy would be the major topics at the SCO Summit this year which would help in reshaping trade and economic relations between the member countries. There will also be sessions on telemedicine at the Summit this year, which has led to the introduction of many facets in the medical field after Covid-19, which could open up new avenues for economic cooperation between in the member states, he said. He said that at the same time, member states were likely to sign agreements on renewable energy.

According to the Ambassador, said that the leadership of the SCO countries, including the Central Asian countries, was now fully committed to the economic and trade integration of the member countries and increase in bilateral trade and economic activities. The logistics and transportation sector is of utmost importance in this regard which needs to be strengthened.

Ambassador Usmanov said noted that facilities and road and rail links were very important in bilateral and transit trade which would increase economic activities in SCO countries. The implementation of the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) between Pakistan and Uzbekistan was going on and bilateral trade would develop through it. The Ambassador said that The negotiations would be held every year to review the PTA between the two countries to make it more productive for both sides. He further said that The two countries used to have online discussions in this regard, in which the process of discussion on tariff rationalization continues. He emphasized said that at this time mutual trade barriers and customs issues were major issues in both countries and for resolving these issues both of the sides countries were working on a mechanism.

A transit trade agreement had been signed between Pakistan and Uzbekistan during the last year in July, which had a very important role in promoting mutual trade. Related to this, the transport and logistics sector was also important in which the governments of the two countries were in negotiations for improvement. Rail and road connectivity was a pivot for regional trade and economic integration in our region. He said that The governments of both the countries were implementing a comprehensive plan for the increase of mutual trade in the two countries and for the promotion of mutual trade in the future (repeated).

Pakistan and Uzbekistan have a very important role to play in providing trade and economic integration to the SCO member countries, which will usher in a new era of economic integration in all member countries. (repeated, see to the para 3)

He said that The women empowerment is a major issue which will be discussed in by the member countries and future strategy will be worked out on it. The Ambassador said that the leadership of the SCO countries, including the Central Asian countries, is now fully committed to the economic and trade integration of the member countries and increase in bilateral trade and economic activities(repeated, see to the para 5). He said that the logistics and transportation sector is of utmost importance in this regard which needs to be strengthened.

He said that The sea routes need to be opened for trade and at present a trade agreement has been signed between Pakistan and Uzbekistan through Karachi and Gwadar ports. In this regard a connectivity terminal will be built in the city of Termez in Uzbekistan, which will connect Pakistan with Central Asian countries including Eurasian and European and maritime markets. The SCO member countries need to be connected to the Iranian ports of Chabahar and Bandar Abbas in order to be commercially and economically connected to the markets of the Middle East and other ASIAN countries. “We need a new economic dimension and paradigm shift to increase our bilateral and transit trade,” he said stressed Ambassador. Similarly, new drivers of economic growth, including technology, information technology and e-commerce, need to be adopted, he added.

He said that There is a strong hope that regional trade and economic relations at the multilateral level will increase.? Apart from agreements between Pakistan and Uzbekistan at the national level, consideration is now being given to enhancing bilateral economic and trade relations between the provinces and major cities. In which agreements have been reached between the province of Punjab of Pakistan and the province of Namangan region of Uzbekistan. Similarly, the sides are working on agreements have been reached with the between the Pakistani cities of Lahore and Peshawar and the Uzbek cities of Samarkand and Termez to increase economic cooperation. Uzbekistan is committed to economic connectivity, development and regional prosperity, which will lead to harmony and peace in the region. It requires a joint strategy and efforts from SCO member states countries, he said.

Pak-Uzbekistan to increase bilateral trade up to US$1 billion

Pakistan and Uzbekistan intend to increase the bilateral trade volume up to US$1 billion in the coming two years. The current bilateral trade between the two countries is $180 million, which is expected to reach $1 billion in the next two years by the mid-2024. The negotiations will be held every year to review the PTA between the two countries to make it further more productive for both sides. (repeated, see to the para 6).

He further said that the two countries used to have online discussions in this regard, in which the process of discussion on tariff rationalization continues. At this time mutual trade barriers and customs issues were major issues in both countries and for resolving these issues both of the countries are working on a mechanism? (repeated, see to the para 6).

On March 28, 2022 of the same year, a tripartite transport and logistics conference was held in Uzbekistan in which the transport and communication ministers of Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan participated and many problems were resolved through mutual discussions. In this conference, Uzbekistan announced the functioning establishment of International Temez Cargo Center, which will provide benefits and trade facilities to the traders of the three countries, he added.

He said that The governments of both the countries are implementing a comprehensive plan for the increase of mutual trade in the two countries and for the promotion of mutual trade in the future. Which This plan includes working on rail and road network for regional economic and trade integration and connecting the countries of the region including China, Central Asia and South Asian countries in terms of trade and promoting economic relations with SCO countries. Ambassador Oybek Arif Usmanov said that road and rail links are very important for the promotion of mutual trade between the Central Asian states, especially Uzbekistan, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and this work has been started. He said that The work has been started on The another important project – China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan railway line is also realizing between the sides. This railway line should be connected to Termez – Peshawar railway line, which will establish economic and trade relations with the countries of the region, including China, a major economic power. He said that The role of the third party Afghanistan will be very important in any kind of mutual trade agreement between Pakistan and Uzbekistan and enough work has been done in the three countries.

He said that The SCO member Countries could play a key role in global and regional economic and trade integration in the current scenario. The SCO has important member countries in terms of geo-economic and geopolitical position, including developed economies, which can play an important role in the development of global and regional economies through this organizational platform (repeated, see to the para 4).