SCO PM meeting in China to boost pragmatic cooperation, regional economic integration

Updated: 2015-12-14 15:49


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BEIJING - An upcoming prime ministers' meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) hosted by China will not only boost pragmatic cooperation within the bloc, but also promote economic integration in the region.

Participants at the meeting, to be held Monday and Tuesday in central China's Zhengzhou city, are expected to discuss SCO cooperation in trade, investment, finance, transportation and culture.

A statement will also be made on regional economic cooperation, reiterating support for regional development strategies including the China-proposed initiative on the construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, or the Belt and Road Initiative.

Compared with the annual gathering of SCO heads of state, the prime ministers' meeting focuses more on member countries' development issues and their economic collaboration.

As the bloc has ushered in a new stage in its development with profound changes in the region and the whole world, a host of cooperation deals expected to be signed at the meeting will lift SCO members' multilateral cooperation to a new height and provide a driving force for their security, stability and common development.

Security and economic cooperation are often regarded as the two "wheels" of the SCO, which groups China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan,

Since its founding in 2001, the increasingly influential bloc has made remarkable achievements in security-toughening and anti-terrorism cooperation.

Meanwhile, the SCO has also tried to give full play to its role in catalyzing economic cooperation in the region these years.

At a summit in Beijing in June 2012, the SCO member states adopted a wide range of important documents, including the Strategic Plan for the Medium-Term Development of the SCO, announcing that more importance would be attached to expanding regional economic cooperation in the next decade.

In a joint statement issued after last year's SCO prime ministers' meeting in the Kazakh capital of Astana, the member states vowed to accomplish more in their common development with new consensuses on deepening win-win cooperation, in the economic area in particular.

Facing an economic downturn in the wake of global economic downturn, the prime ministers' meeting in Zhengzhou will mull measures to implement a development strategy until 2025, which was approved during an SCO summit in Russia in July this year.

Trade, industrial cooperation, infrastructure construction and finance are expected to top the agenda of the SCO prime ministers' meeting this year.

Moreover, the prime ministers will also discuss ways to dovetail the Silk Road Economic Belt initiative, an open and mutually beneficial initiative aimed at reviving the ancient Silk Road from China via Central Asia and Russia to Europe, aligned with the Russia-initiated Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).

The Belt and Road Initative was put forward by Chinese President Xi Jinping during a visit to Kazakhstan in 2013, and has since witnessed tangible commitments by China, including the launch of a New Silk Road Fund worth 40 billion U.S. dollars last year.

In the meantime, Russia has also played a leading role in accelerating regional economic integration in Eurasia by initiating the EEU, a regional organization which currently groups Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia.

The EEU's main objectives are to form a single market, create more opportunities for the free flow of goods, services, investment and labor forces within the borders of the member countries by 2025, as well as introduce a coordinated economic policy.

During Xi's visit to Moscow in May this year, he and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a joint statement on the alignment of the Silk Road Economic Belt initiative and the EEU blueprint.

The move, taken by the two major SCO members, will promote cooperation within the bloc and in the region at large. It is hoped that the SCO will become an important platform for the further alignment of their development strategies.

China, as the host of the SCO prime ministers' meeting this year, will take it as a good opportunity to push forward the building of the Silk Road Economic Belt and coordinate development strategies of all SCO member states.