ISLAMABAD -  Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said that the member countries of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) could achieve economic and trade potential of the region through greater integration and connectivity.

The role of the private sector would be vital for achieving the 2025 vision of ECO, he said while talking to Heads of ECO Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ECO CCI) delegations at a meeting held at the Prime Minister’s Office. The minister while welcoming the guests conveyed them felicitation on behalf of the Prime Minister, the Government and people of Pakistan on a very successful ECO summit.

He further said that ECO region accounts for 16% of the world’s population but only 2% of the world’s trade. Trade and investment are the areas that the ECO countries specially need to focus and for that regional connectivity is all the more necessary.

He said that Chambers of Commerce and Industries have a leading role to play in this regard. He said in addition to ECO initiatives and CPEC, regional connectivity is being enhanced through bilateral and multilateral agreements. He cited the CASA-1000, TAPI and Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation in this regard. The minister said that with dedicated efforts the ECO countries can achieve the objectives described in the declaration of the just concluded summit.

He said it was indeed necessary to ease procedures for visa facilitation, especially for business community among ECO countries that would in turn help enhance better contacts and trade facilitation. He said ECO Chamber of Commerce and Industries needs to play a key role for achieving the objective. Dar also emphasised active role of ECO Trade and Development Bank and its enhanced liaison with business community of ECO member countries to promote trade and business activities in the region.

He said that Pakistan had achieved macro-economic stability and was now treading on the path to sustainable and inclusive growth. He said international experts acknowledged the economic headway Pakistan had made. He said during last three years Pakistan has achieved an overall 60% revenue growth. “We are eyeing a GDP growth rate of 7% in another year or so, and look for greater engagement with ECO countries,” the minister added.

Representatives of different countries including Eng Gholamhosein Shafei, President ICCIMA and ECO CCI from Iran and Mr Rifat Hisarciklioglu, President TOBB, Turkey viewed that the ECO summit would go a long way in promoting trade and economic opportunities among ECO-member countries.

They emphasised efforts for visa facilitation between ECO countries to encourage economic activities. They said that Pakistan had made great economic strides in the last three to four years. Pakistan was the founding member of ECO and now it had a key role to play for its success in realising the goal of economic development. They opined that there was due focus now on the silk route and its active role in generating economic activity and ECO countries should also give due attention to this factor.

ECO Chamber of Commerce and Industries President Zubair Tufail said that Pakistan with a population of 200 million, a liberal investment regime and a bank rate as low as 6% was a great attraction for foreign business and traders community. He said there was enthusiasm shown by representatives of ECO countries at the recent summit for participation in CPEC projects. This would help generate economic activities among the ECO countries.

Iftikhar Ali Malik, Vice President SAARC CCI on the occasion specially felicitated the Government on successful holding of the ECO summit. He wished all the heads of delegations a wonderful stay in Pakistan and hoped they would carry the message of the ECO summit with them for enhancing future cooperation among ECO member countries