SCO meeting to focus on trade cooperation
Published: Nov 29, 2020 08:48 PM

A freight train bound for Kazakhstan leaves the multimodal transport center in the China-Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) local economic and trade cooperation demonstration zone in Qingdao, east China's Shandong Province, Nov. 9, 2020. (Xinhua/Li Ziheng)

While the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is a platform for its eight members to coordinate security policies, the upcoming meeting of the Council of Heads of Government is likely to focus on cooperation in fighting the COVID-19 epidemic, as well as economic and trade recovery, Chinese analysts said on Sunday.

The 19th Meeting of the Council of Heads of Government of Member States of the SCO, hosted by India, will be held through video link on Monday. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will attend the meeting from Beijing.

Following recent diplomatic outreach by China's top officials, where epidemic control and economic recovery took center stage, Li will likely reiterate China's willingness to promote multilateral cooperation in trade and investment, analysts said.

"At the meeting, Premier Li Keqiang and other leaders will hold in-depth communication and exchange on deepening SCO cooperation amid the pandemic, gather a broader consensus on cooperation, and formulate more practical measures to seek greater synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and national development strategies and regional cooperation initiatives," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Thursday.

India's Ministry of External Affairs said that by hosting the meeting, it hopes to further strengthen trade, economic and cultural cooperation among the member states, according to Indian media outlets.

"The SCO was established for security and military cooperation. However, the COVID-19 epidemic has underscored the need for the member countries to actively cooperate in fighting the virus and helping the economy," Chen Fengying, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times on Sunday. "At the moment, it is the virus that poses the biggest threat to the member countries."

While China has effectively reined in the epidemic at home, some of the other members, including India, are still facing severe outbreaks of the deadly virus and the resulting economic impact. In the past quarter, the Indian economy shrank by 7.5 percent year-on-year due to the virus, which has infected over 9.3 million people and killed over 135,000 in the country, according to media reports.

Apart from the epidemic, India has moved to restrict business cooperation with China, reportedly because of border tensions, including banning many Chinese mobile apps and tightening reviews of Chinese investments, putting potential cooperation between the world's two most populous countries at risk.

"There are certainly differences between these two member countries [China and India], but the most important thing for both sides to focus on is areas where they can cooperate for the benefit of both countries and their people," Chen said, noting that the two sides could start by cooperating in medical supplies and vaccines, and removing unnecessary barriers to bilateral trade and investment.