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1-Trade Promotion Activities
   a-ECO Business Forum
       In pursuance of the objective to strengthen private sector cooperation, Business Forums under the ECO Project on “Expanding Intra-Regional Trade” are organized. The ECO Business Forum has been institutionalized as a mechanism for improving relations among the private sectors of the Member States. These forums provide useful platform for the private sector representative bodies to explore avenues of expansion in the regional trade and strengthen multilateral cooperation.
        ECO has so far supported three Business Forums from its Feasibility and General Purpose Fund (FSGPF). These important private sector activities of ECO have so far been hosted by the National Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Pakistan and Turkey. Buyers and Sellers meetings on specialized sectors are also organized as sideline events of the ECO Business Forums. The 10th General Assembly meeting of ECO-CCI held in Istanbul on 22-23 December, 2009, decided that Business Forums will be organized as a regular activity on the sidelines of the upcoming ECO Ministerial Meetings.
        The 19th COM approved the proposed enlargement of the scope of the Project on Expanding Intra-Regional Trade by covering trade promotional activities, including specialized trade fairs, exchange of Buyers-Sellers delegations, symposia on leading export sectors, trade research. ECO Business Forum is an ongoing Project under which financial support is offered by ECO.  The 4th Business Forum scheduled to be held in Baku, Azerb
 
   b-Trade Fairs
         Trade Fairs and Exhibitions provide a unique opportunity to manufacturers and exporters to expand their businesses. These are considered to be the most effective tool of marketing and projection of trade, industrial and investment potential. After the reactivation of ECO-Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ECO-CCI) and institutionalizing Business Forums, the regional trading communities attached high expectations to ECO in forging business ties among the Member States and enhancing trade. The Secretariat in accordance with the guidelines provided by Council of Ministers and Regional Planning Council meetings has been trying to hold these events as a regular ECO activity. After the successful hosting of the 2nd ECO Trade Fair held in Pakistan on July 2008, the ECO Secretariat was on track to gear up the promotional activity.  The Islamic Republic of Iran hosted as a specialized ECO Trade Fairs, the first and the second ECO International Printing and Packaging Exhibition in Mashad on November 19-23, 2009 and on February 08-11, 2012 respectively
   c-ECO Trade Promotion Organizations Forum
          The modernization and expansion of export-oriented industries, up-gradation of product standards and quality, value addition and diversification of exports are the main challenges for the ECO countries. One of the options to achieve desired progress on the export front is to create linkages between the responsible organizations so that their promotional activities and campaigns are effectively coordinated at the regional level. With the objective of increasing interaction among the Trade Promotion Organizations (TPOs) of the Member States, a new forum was created in 2009. The first meeting of the ECO Heads of Trade Promotion Organizations (ECO-TPOs) was hosted by the Trade Promotion Organization of Iran in December 2009 in Tehran. The occasion provided opportunity for exchange of information on their respective organizations, functions and activities and scope for cooperation in promotional activities including training of officials, linkages between research institutions, and facilities for trade-fair participation, holding of seminars / symposia and sharing of technical expertise.
         The 2nd Meeting of the ECO-TPOs was held on May 2-3 2012 in Baku, Azerbaijan. The Meeting acknowledged the efforts of ECO in establishing important forums, lunching projects and organizing events in order to promote regional trade. The Meeting deliberated on the need to accelerate the process of trade liberalization by taking special measures to achieve objectives of integrating the ECO region in the world trading system. The meeting also highlighted importance of trade financing and implementation of an integrated regional trade promotion program. In order to realize the potential of the region for expanding intra-regional trade, the 2nd Meeting of the ECO-TPOs proposed several initiatives and supportive measures to expand intra-regional trade. These include organizing specialized trade fairs, early implementation of the ECO Trade Agreement (ECOTA), technical assistance and export coaching program for the countries in need, exchange of information of the trade related events including fairs, seminars, exhibitions, road shows and hosting of business forums as well as buyer/seller meetings on regular basis with specified and focused topics. The Republic of Turkey confirmed the willingness to host the 3rd Meeting of Heads of ECO Trade Promotion Organizations (TPOs). An ECO Trade Promotion Agreement will also be prepared.
 
d. Other trade promotion activities
The Islamic Republic of Pakistan has conveyed that under the ECO Project on “Expanding Intra Regional Trade”, the following activities will be hosted by Pakistan in 2014:
1.       Seminar on Trade opportunities in ECO region emanating from ECOTA;
2.       ECO Women Entrepreneurs Forum; and
3.       ECO Product/Catalogue Show.
 
2- Trade Facilitation Activities
    a-Customs Cooperation
        ECO has finalized two agreements to enhance cooperation in customs fields. The Agreement on Establishment and Operations of ECO Smuggling and Customs Offences Data Bankhas been signed by six Member States namely Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Turkey. The Data Bank will be established after ratification and entry into force of the Agreement. The draft Agreement on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Customs Matters has been finalized. It will be open to signature during the next (7th) ECO Council of Heads of Customs Administration Meeting, which will be held in Pakistan. Simplification and harmonization of customs system and streamlining of transit trade procedures are high priority areas requiring increased cooperation by regional countries. ECO, in collaboration with international and regional organizations has made good progress in strengthening cooperation in some of the areas. ECO is currently preparing proposals for joint activities with specialized institutions seeking their technical support in harmonization of customs regimes. ECO Secretariat is preparing the draft ECO Trade FacilitationAgreement. A comprehensive Project for technical assistance and capacity building of Member States in Trade Facilitation is planned in collaboration with WTO and World Customs Organization (WCO).
 
b-ECO Trade and Development Bank

   The ECO Trade and Development Bank (ECO-TDB) was established on August 3, 2005 with its headquarters located in Istanbul. The Bank started its operations in 2008. The representative offices of the Bank in Tehran (Iran) and Karachi (Pakistan) are fully functional. The current shareholders are now six members of ECO, namely Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan and Turkey. The authorized capital of the Bank is 1 billion SDR and total paid-in capital is 326,75 million SDR. Iran, Pakistan and Turkey have equal share with 100 million SDR for each in the paid-in-capital. The Republic of Azerbaijan with SDR 9.75 million paid-in-capital contribution, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan with SDR 15 million paid-in-capital contribution and Kyrgyz Republic with SDR 2 million contribution  became new members of the Bank.

   The primary objective of the Bank is to provide financial resources for projects and programmes in member countries. The Bank offers a range of medium-to-long term products i.e. project finance, corporate finance, trade finance and loans to support small and medium-sized enterprises directly or through financial intermediaries to private and state owned entities. In this context, sectors such as infrastructure, manufacturing, agriculture, energy, transport and communications, which have potential impact on the development of the member states, are given special attention. Within this perspective, the total amount of loans disbursed by the Bank ascended to about US$ 851 million by the end of 2014.

    Trade Finance and SMEs Development Programme: Through this network the Bank is offering short and medium-term loans to finance trade transactions and support the financing needs of the Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs). The total amount disbursed under SMEs finance programme reached US$ 251.2 million at the end of 2014. On the other hand, trade finance is a distinct core business of this Bank. Under this facility, the Bank provides finance for exports to all destinations, but import finance is limited to those goods produced by the ECO member states.  The total amount disbursed through this programme amounted to US$ 265 million at the end of 2014.

  Corporate and Project Finance: The other operations of the Bank are focused on corporate and project financing. The investment needs of corporate firms and public sector entities are catered to by direct lending from the Bank. In corporate and project finance, the total amount of disbursements reached US$ 335 million by the end of 2014.

c-ECO Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ECO-CCI)
       ECO-CCI having been operationalized a decade ago has been encouraging cooperation among ECO privates sectors. The headquarters were hosted by Turkey for three years till 2010. During this period, the Chamber has been successful in maintaining regularity in organizing its General Assembly and Executive Council meetings. It also established Women Entrepreneurs Council which held two meetings in Istanbul. Besides, with the support of Union of Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Commodity Exchange of Turkey (TOBB), the ECO-CCI established several specialized committees which have made good progress in improving interaction among the regional private sectors. In accordance with the agreed formula, the Chairmanship of ECO-CCI was handed over by the Turkish apex Chamber (Union of Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Commodity Exchanges) to the Iranian Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Mines (ICCIM) for a period of three years. The 12th General Assembly and 17th Executive Committee meetings of ECO-CCI along with the 6 Specialized Committees were hosted by the TOBB on 5-7 November, 2012 in Ankara, Turkey. The 18th Executive Committee Meeting of ECO-CCI along with all the Specialized Committeeswere hosted by the Islamic Republic of Iran October 10, 2013. Chairmanship of ECO CCI will be handed over to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in 2014 for three years.
      
     d-Additional Protocol to the Agreement on Simplification of Visa Procedures for Businessmen and Transit Drivers of ECO Member States
 
        Draft Additional Protocol on Simplification of Visa Procedures for Businessmen and Transit Drivers of ECO Member States was signed by Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan on March 9, 2009. The difficult and cumbersome visa procedures continue to discourage building of relationships among the regional business firms. In order for improved interaction and expansion in trading activities, Member States need to accord high priority to facilitate frequent interaction among businessmen. Early implementation of the Agreement would definitely augur well for the regional trade and investment cooperation. The meeting of Permanent Committee of Experts for Visa Facilitation established by the Ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs may be convened to streamline procedures and complete pending issues. The proposal for issuing Visa Stickers and developing mechanisms need to be attached priority as recommended by ECO-CCI and other forums.
 
e-ECO Programme on Paperless/E-Trade.
      The technologies and methodologies for a collaborative e-commerce/e-trade platform that allows the exchange of electronic messages between commercial and logistics operators as well as provides for the interchange of certain communications with Customs and other government authorities are well proven at national levels. A platform for the interconnection of national single windows, often referred to as ‘Regional Single Window’ or ‘Cross-Border Single Window’ to carry out international transactions between commercial operators – using private networks, Virtual Private Networks or other forms of secure communications – is not new and is actually encouraged by the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) and the World Customs Organization (WCO). Implementation of Single Windows in the ECO Member States and at a later stage realization of Regional Single Window for cross border data exchange is highly required in the present world of globalization. The Single Window system enables Economic Operators to submit regulatory documents only once. Such documents are typically customs declarations, applications for permits, certificates of origin or trading invoices.
         ECO organized 1st Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on E-Trade Cooperation on May 23-25, 2012 in Kish Island, I.R. Iran. The EGM was jointly organized by the ECO Secretariat, the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Trade of the I.R. of Iran, and Asia Pacific Council for Trade Facilitation and E-Trade (AFACT). Apart from the 1st EGM on Electronic Trade, ECO-UNNExT Technical Capacity Building Workshop on Cross Border paperless Trade for ECO Countries and ECO-ESCAP Joint Trade Facilitation Forum on Paperless Trade and Single Window were also held on the sidelines of the meeting. The meeting acknowledged that the introduction of Paperless trade has not only changed the way businesses interact with customs and other government authorities but also its clients, suppliers and partners.
          The meeting agreed that launching Single Window and implementing a harmonized data system in the ECO region would result in improved communication between the entities and actors involved in trade processes, greater speed and efficiency in the trade procedures and enhanced transparency in commercial transaction. The meeting decided to introduce cross-border exchange of E-certificate of origin, recognition of E-signature and ECO Cataloguing Service in the first stage in the ECO Member Countries, where the required infrastructure is ready. The meeting decided to establish product cataloguing system for ECO Member States as a part of enhancement program of ECO Web Portal. The meeting also recommended regularizing the awareness raising and capacity building activities on paperless trade for the benefits of its member states.

 

f. WTO Accession of Member States 

ECO attaches high importance to facilitating the accession of the Member States to the World Trade Organization (WTO) as only four Member States are at present members of the WTO . The second Seminar on “Doha Negotiations and Accession Process to WTO” for the ECO Member States was organized by the Secretariat on July 02-04 2013 in Istanbul in collaboration with the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Turkey, Islamic Development Bank, and ECO Trade and Development Bank . Such Seminars are useful in shoring up the undestranding of Member States of the multilateral trading system and would contribute to facilitating the accession to WTO of ECO Members.
3-Investment Promotion Activities
   a-Investment Promotion
ECO Agreement on Promotion and Protection of Investment (APPI) as approved by the third ECO Ministerial Meeting on Commerce and Foreign Trade held in Istanbul on July 7, 2005 was signed by Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and Turkey. The second ECO Ministerial Meeting on Finance and Economy held on April 5-7 2007 in Antalya, agreed to the amendment of the Article No. 9.7 second paragraph as proposed by the Islamic Republic of Iran.   The Islamic Republic of Iran signed the amended Agreement and deposited instrument of ratification on June 6, 2010. The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Republic of Turkey have also signed the Amendment Protocol to the Agreement . The Islamic Republic of Pakistan signed Agreement and the Amendment Protocol.  The enforcement of the Agreement on Promotion and Protection of Investment (APPI) could help economies in several ways. The investment activities would certainly gain momentum with the flow of investment, transfer of technology, new employment opportunities and utilization of raw materials to the optimum level. The implementation of APPI will particularly be beneficial for increased investments in the Organized Trade Zones (OTZs), Free Trade Zones (FTZs) and Industrial/Export Processing Zones established by the Member States.
   b-ECO Investment Conference
   Hosting of ECO Investment Conferences for potential investors, manufacturers, exporters and importers are organized for attracting investment by the Member States. The Conferences at regional level prove useful in reaching out to investors interested in setting up industrial units. Such events combined with exhibitions and trade fairs tend to generate business activities by providing additional opportunities to participants in maximizing their profits. Promoting trade and investment among the ECO Member States was the focus of the 3rd Investment Conference held in Kabul in 2004. These activities were major steps to promote trade and investment among the ECO member states especially in Afghanistan and provide business-to-business interaction and networking opportunities for the private sectors of the region. It offered an ideal opportunity for the countries to contribute to the economic progress of Afghanistan. The 4th ECO Investment Conference will be hosted by any volunteering Member State.
 

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