ISLAMABAD  - Federal Minister for Communications Dr Arbab Alamgir said on Thursday that the members of Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) agreed to create Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul trade corridor which would enable Pakistan to export its goods to Turkey without any hindrance.

Addressing a press conference here, he said that Fifth Meeting of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) Transit Transport Coordination Council (TTCC), being held in Islamabad, would be big stride in bringing the ECO countries closer in trade and economic activities. He said in the second phase, the trade corridor would be expanded to the European countries while the second trade corridor would be built to link Pakistan with the Central Asian states through under-construction Lowari Tunnel.

Arbab Alamgir Khan said that the ECO provided a unique opportunity of trade development as its member states’ borders stretched from Europe to South Asia and from the shores of Arabian Sea to the Russian borders. Having a population of around 400 million and a combined GDP of around US$ 6,000 billion, the region gives the member states an unparalleled socio-economic potential, he added.

The Federal Minister said that in the modern world no country could maintain a favourable balance of trade without the help of maritime facilities and Pakistan was fully cognizant of difficulties of landlocked member states of ECO.

Therefore, it had extended transit trade facilities to these states through its warm water seaports.

However, he said, the benefits of that facility could not be optimized without an efficient road and rail network. For that reason Pakistan had conceived the National Trade Corridor (NTC) and entrusted the responsibility to the Ministry of Communications to construct a network of highways and motorways of international standard.

He said that it would undoubtedly provide an efficient and economical road network for inter-regional connectivity particularly an effective access to Pakistan’s seaports to ECO Member states. He said that Pakistan, due to its strategic location, enhanced hot water access to the Central Asian states to boost transit trade.

Arbab said the ECO was an authentic platform for regional, social, economic development and with the help of trade corridors and transit transport framework, challenges could be overcome.

Presence of delegates from Turkey and Iran, in the Islamabad- Tehran-Istanbul Road Corridor meeting, shows the commitment of the member states to achieve this project within the shortest possible time, he said.

The minister said that establishment of Road Corridor would greatly facilitate implementation of the Transit Transport Framework Agreement (TTFA); an agreement signed a decade ago to facilitate trade and transport among the 10-member Economic Cooperation Organization. The successful launch of Truck Caravan from Pakistan in 2010 has further strengthened the belief that now there is a need to start regular operations of goods and passengers movement within the ECO Region, he added.

He said that on the pattern of European Green Card in insurance sector, the ECO countries had agreed in principle to issue a card by the end of the year which would provide equal insurance facilities to transporters in the region.

He said that International Road Transport Union had offered its services for capacity building of Pakistan’s transport sector and Turkey would also cooperate in this connection.

He said that the ECO countries had agreed to simplify and upgrade the customs system at the border posts so that no time was wasted there.

The minister also said that there was a proposal to introduce an ECO visa for drivers and transporters of the region.