TEHRAN (Iran News) – The joint production of a new automobile under the brand name ECO, at Iran’s proposal, by the member states of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) could prepare the ground for greater unity and cooperation in the bloc.
The remarks were made by Hossein Salimi, the vice president of the Iranian Committee of the ECO Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI), in an exclusive interview with Iran Daily.
He said the ECO member countries have welcomed Iran’s proposal of manufacturing the new car in a recent meeting of the organization.
Salimi added that the meetings of different ECO committees are currently held virtually due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
The novel coronavirus outbreak, which began in Wuhan, China, in December, has expanded to touch nearly every corner of the globe, infecting over 15.97 million and killing more than 643,000.
Commenting on the experience of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the joint production of an automobile, Salimi suggested that ECO members can do the same by taking part in the manufacturing of a new car brand.
The ASEAN is a regional intergovernmental organization comprising ten countries in Southeast Asia, which promotes intergovernmental cooperation and facilitates economic, political, security, military, educational and sociocultural integration among its members and other Asian countries.
Elaborating on how the ECO members each can play a role in the initiative, he said, “For instance, a country can produce the parts and another one can assemble them. Participation by some members can even be in the form of purchasing the manufactured cars.”
According to Salimi, preliminary estimates regarding the required investments and facilities for the annual production of one million automobiles are expected to be made based on a request by the ECO and in coordination with the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“A report of the estimates will be handed over to the ECO.”
The car to be produced by the ECO members is required to be competitive with other brands in international markets, he said, adding, “We are calculating the amount of demand for such a new car model in each member state to be able to meet their needs following the production of the automobile.”
At present, he said, Iran, Turkey as well as Pakistan have the required capabilities and technology for manufacturing automobiles and, along with other members, can cooperate in this enterprise.
Describing as less-than-satisfactory ECO’s efforts to achieve its economic goals and implement its plans, Salimi called on the member states to prioritize collective and long-term interests over the national and short-term ones.
“It will help the organization work better toward its economic targets.”
Despite its long-standing historical background, he added, the ECO has, in practice, failed to accomplish a large number of simple tasks due to the differences among its members.
The ECO is an intergovernmental regional organization, encompassing countries from Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia, Middle East and South Asia with more than 460 million inhabitants, according to eco.int.
Covering an area of over eight million square kilometers, it connects Russia to the Persian Gulf and China to Europe. The overall objective of the organization is the sustainable economic development of its member states and the region as a whole.
Established as Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD) in 1964 by Iran, Pakistan and Turkey, the organization was rechristened as ECO in 1985.
In 1992 and in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Afghanistan and six former Soviet republics, namely, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan joined the organization, forming one of the biggest regional blocs in Asia and beyond with 10 members.
Expounding on the differences among the ECO members, Salimi said for instance, many years ago, it was proposed that the members eliminate visa requirements among their nationals, in a move similar to what has been done in the Schengen Area, enabling them to easily travel to member countries.
“Each time, however, one or two members disagreed with the proposal. For an ECO visa sticker plan to be carried out successfully, all members must arrive at a consensus.”
He added the Economic Cooperation Organization Trade Agreement (ECOTA) is another project that has been suspended due to a disagreement among the members.
“To achieve their goals, particularly, in the field of trade, the ECO members placed implementation of the ECOTA plan on their agenda having studied similar experiences by other international organizations. The agreement will be a significant step toward facilitating trade among the members and promotion of free trade in the region. The ECOTA was signed in July 2003 in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.”
Salimi said the agreement is aimed at unifying tariffs on trade among the ECO members, regretting that the plan was suspended as a number of member states, which are exporters of certain products, have voiced disagreement with the reduction of tariffs.
“Of course, it is possible to abolish tariffs on some products and lower them on other goods.”
This, he explained, comes as the signatories to North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) – a deal signed by Canada, Mexico and the US, creating a trilateral trade bloc in North America – managed to arrive at a consensus about the treaty despite their differences.
He stressed that the ECO members that are all Muslim countries should basically be able to come to an agreement on different issues with greater ease.
NAFTA came into force in January 1994. It facilitates entry by the nationals of the signatories into each other’s countries for trade exchanges, provision of services and investments.
Also commenting on the reasons for the differences among the ECO members, Salimi said, “I am one of the oldest people in the ECO having worked at the organization for over two decades. However, throughout all these years, the members have never arrived at an agreement over an issue.”
He said that some of the members have been following certain economic patterns since a long time ago and have their own economic attitudes and principles, which are different from other members.
“This comes as the ECO members have considerable capacities in different fields, such as in terms of population and natural resources, which can be used to increase the organization’s role in political and, particularly, economic international relations.”
- source : Iran Daily, Irannews