SCO to tackle free trade zone: experts

By Deng Xiaoci Source:Global Times Published: 2016/11/1 23:28:40

Setting up development bank would enhance regional cooperation

Economic and trade cooperation, including a free trade zone between Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) members, will be the highlight of this week's SCO prime ministers' meeting in Bishkek, Kyrgystan, Chinese analysts said.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is scheduled to visit Kyrgystan on Wednesday and Thursday and will attend the 15th SCO prime ministers' meeting in Bishkek at the invitation of his Kyrgyz counterpart Sooronbai Jeenbekov, according to the Chinese government's official website.

The meeting will likely promote the establishment of an SCO free trade zone and enhance industrial production capacity cooperation between SCO members, He Weiwen, a senior research fellow at the Center for China and Globalization, told the Global Times.

He stressed that by establishing a free trade zone, trade would be also greatly facilitated between countries along the One Belt and One Road route in Central Asia and the Gulf region.

Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan are among the SCO member countries.

Discussions on establishing an SCO development bank will also probably figure prominently at the meeting, He said, noting that the bank would meet the financial requirements of further regional cooperation.

Vice Commerce Minister Qian Keming called for the establishment of an SCO development bank, which would provide funding for regional projects together with other multilateral funds and development banks, at an SCO economic forum, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Zhao Huirong, a research fellow of Central Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that the SCO, which started as a regional security organization, has become a platform for a wider range of exchanges among its members, covering politics, economy and culture.

The meeting in Bishkek will play an important role in the SCO's development since the organization is expected to cover not only Central Asia but Eurasia in the next two years and work with other international organizations like ASEAN and the Eurasian economic union in a more pragmatic way, said Zhao.

Zhao added that India, Pakistan and Iran will most likely become full SCO members.

China will continue to play a positive role in the SCO, to uphold the Shanghai Spirit, which features mutual trust, mutual benefits, equality, consultation, respect for cultural diversity, the pursuit of common development, and promote regional peace, stability and prosperity, Zhao added.

"We should engage in closer security cooperation through the SCO, leaving no room for destabilizing forces," Premier Li said at the close of the two-day SCO meeting in Central China's Henan Province in December 2015.

The economies of some SOC members have slowed down, which requires a more urgent need for better regional cooperation among members, Zhao said.

Li is scheduled to leave Tuesday for an eight-day official visit to Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Latvia and Russia.

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