SCO Summit: President Tokayev highlights transit and transport, food and energy security

By on September 17, 2022 0

NUR-SULTAN – President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has called on member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to expand economic cooperation and, in doing so, focus on the sphere of transit transport, food security and energy during the council of chiefs of SCO member USA on September 15-16 in Samarkand, the Presidential Press Service reported.

The summit was in the global spotlight as it brought together leaders of SCO member states and observer states for the first time in three years in a face-to-face format.

Tokayev called the acute lack of mutual trust a distinctive feature of the modern era. Photo credit: Akorda

The SCO was founded in June 2001 by Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In June 2017, during the Astana summit, Pakistan and India joined the organization, while after Friday’s summit, Iran is on the verge of becoming a full member of the SCO, and Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been granted the status of SCO dialogue partners.

Addressing his counterparts, President Tokayev said the task is to transform the SCO into a global economic platform, noting the huge economic potential of SCO member states which account for almost a quarter of the World GDP or more than $23 trillion.

“Our organization brings together dynamically developing global economies with enormous human, resource and technological potential. (…) We have at our disposal the richest reserves of energy resources, coal, rare metals and renewable energy sources,” Tokayev said.

At the end of the summit, the SCO leaders adopted a joint statement which proposes approaches to ensure regional stability, sustainable economic development, strengthening transport and communication links. Photo credit: Akorda

Priority areas of cooperation

While calling the organization’s large-scale economic projects an engine of growth, Tokayev cited public transit and food and energy security as priority areas for the future.

In terms of logistics interconnectivity, Tokayev noted the great potential of the China-Europe route and the Trans-Caspian international transport route. He also said that Kazakhstan supports efforts to expand transport routes between Central Asia and South Asia and develop the North-South and East-West Trans-Eurasian Corridors.

“The Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railway, which offers the shortest route between East Asia and the Persian Gulf countries, has great potential. Kazakhstan’s transit and transport cooperation with Central Asian countries is developing dynamically. We welcome the implementation of promising projects aimed at ensuring the interconnection of the countries of our region,” Tokayev said.

On the eve of the summit, leaders of SCO member states, observer states, dialogue partners and guests visited some of the main sites in the historic city of Samarkand. Photo credit: Akorda

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, whose country chairs the SCO in 2022, called for the signing of a trilateral agreement on the construction of China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway a “historical event”.

“We are also calling for support for another strategically important project – the construction of the Termez-Mazar-e-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar rail corridor,” he said at the summit.

Tokayev also stressed the need to address food and energy security, the subject he had repeatedly raised at regional and international meetings.

SCO member states, he said, possess significant agricultural potential to contribute to the uninterrupted functioning of global food production and supply chains.

“The SCO states are the largest producers and exporters of agricultural products in the world. We need to stimulate the expansion of agricultural trade both within the SCO region and beyond its borders,” he added.

He also urged his counterparts to address the rational use of water resources, an increasingly problematic issue for the region and for Kazakhstan, where, according to expert estimates, water resources are around 100 cubic kilometres, with more than 44% formed outside the country. . Amplified by climate change, it requires urgent action from all Member States.

Mirziyoyev, in turn, proposed forming a common space of industrial and technological cooperation based on what he called the SCO’s new economic dialogue. This platform, he noted, is designed to eliminate trade and customs barriers, form guaranteed and stable production and supply chains, stimulate joint localization and import substitution programs and promote investment. mutuals, mainly in the development of infrastructure, industry and the service sector.

The potential of this economic dialogue still remains untapped, according to Zhumabek Sarabekov, an expert at the Institute for Global Economics and Politics.

“In 2021, the foreign trade turnover of SCO member states was $7 trillion, but trade within the SCO was only $700 billion. The SCO needs new economic solutions and mechanisms. Uzbekistan, as president, and Kazakhstan are particularly interested in making the SCO work as an effective economic platform,” the expert said in an interview for this story. “Central Asian states are not interested in turning the SCO into a platform that carries the geopolitical rhetoric of China and Russia or other member states.”

The SCO is important for Kazakhstan for several reasons, he said.

“We see export and investment opportunities. It is also important as an instrument for ensuring regional security. The region continues to experience an increase in drug trafficking, religious extremism and terrorism. The SCO can play an important role,” he said.

He echoed President Tokayev’s statement on the expansion of the organization, which strengthens its economic and geopolitical positions.

“The summit takes place in a difficult geopolitical period. We see that there is an escalation of the conflict in Ukraine, growing tensions between Russia and the West, as well as between China and the United States,” he said.

Aidar Kurmashev, head of the department of international studies at the Institute of Strategic Studies of Kazakhstan, noted that cooperation with the SCO is one of the key areas of Kazakhstan’s foreign policy strategy.

“The goals of the SCO are fully in line with Kazakhstan’s foreign policy vision, which adheres to the principles of openness, pragmatism and mutually beneficial cooperation. In particular, in the work of the organization, the Member States strengthen mutual trust and good neighborliness and promote their effective cooperation in the political, commercial and economic, scientific, technical and cultural fields, as well as in education, l energy, transport, tourism. , and environmental protection. Building effective work in this organization allows us to protect and promote the interests of Kazakhstan in a multilateral format,” he said.

Addressing the summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping, who traveled to Kazakhstan before going to Samarkand, in what was his first trip abroad since the start of the pandemic, described the SCO as an “important constructive force in international and regional affairs”, stressing the responsibility of the group in maintaining peace and development of the Eurasian continent, at a time when the region is seeing the escalation of armed border confrontation between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as well as between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

“We must stand firm in safeguarding the international system centered on the United Nations and the international order based on international law, practicing the common values ​​of humanity and rejecting the zero-sum game and the politics of blocs…in order to maintain true multilateralism, to improve global governance. , and make the international order more just and equitable,” Xi said.

Looking to the future, Xi proposed focusing on the need to increase mutual support, expand security cooperation, deepen practical cooperation, strengthen cultural and intercultural exchanges. peoples and to maintain multilateralism.

Sarabekov also sees geopolitical challenges and the economic downturn affecting the work of the SCO.

“In terms of geopolitics, SCO member states are facing fundamental changes. The global economy is facing serious challenges. Due to the war and sanctions against Russia, the geoeconomy is completely restarted, logistics routes are changing and supply chains are disrupted, amplified by a continued impact of the pandemic,” Sarabekov said.