Uzbekistan Asks Shanghai Cooperation Organisation To Establish Mutual Investment Action Plans
Aziz Voitov, the First Deputy Minister of Investments and Foreign Trade of Uzbekistan, has proposed that Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) countries develop an action plan to promote mutual investment. Voitov was speaking at the second SCO Economic Forum, currently underway in Tashkent.
The move is significant because it brings the SCO into sharper focus as a developing regional trade and investment bloc as opposed to being seen as a security grouping. The SCO currently comprises eight member states: China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan, while Iran is due to join next month. Observer states include Afghanistan, Belarus, and Mongolia, while Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Turkiye are dialogue partners.
Upcoming dialogue partners include Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, while long standing guests include ASEAN (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) and the Commonwealth of Independent States countries, which includes Moldova and Tajikistan among countries not already mentioned, in addition to Turkmenistan.
According to Voitov, such an action plan would allow SCO member countries the ability to offset the global financial and economic shocks and ensure an uninterrupted flow of investment and noted that this plan would strengthen the coordination of the departments of the SCO countries responsible for the formation of investment policy.
In addition, Uzbekistan proposed to hold an international conference on cooperation in the agro-industrial sector, taking into account the increased urgency of the problem of food security.
Voitov added that the conference will allow its participants to develop a joint plan to expand cooperation in the agricultural sector, study and implement the latest agricultural technologies and methods to increase yields, plant resistance to diseases, and save water resources.
The SCO is becoming increasingly influential and is now expanding its scope more vigorously into trade and economic development, although this has always been part of its remit. Its initial and more recent immediate focus has been on regional security and especially as concerns Afghanistan.
Of the current soon-to-be-nine full members, China is the economic heavyweight and has free trade agreements with ASEAN and India, in addition to the recent RCEP trade deal. India and Pakistan are members of the SAARC and BIMSTEC trade blocs, which essentially cover South Asia, while Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are members of the Eurasian Economic Union, which Iran has a free trade agreement with. Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are members of the Commonwealth of Independent States, which also includes some of the EAEU countries including Russia. Getting them aligned into one trading bloc may take time, however Uzbekistan’s call to develop an SCO investment structure would help facilitate this. China, India, and Russia are three of the largest shareholders of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) while the three, along with Brazil and South Africa, are also shareholders in the BRICS New Development Bank. Both banks are triple A rated institutions with capital of US$100 billion.
It also indicates that Uzbekistan and the SCO nations are recognizing that a potential division between ‘the West’ – meaning primarily North America and the European Union, and the rest of the world is occurring and that institutions need to be put in place now to channel SCO development finance and investment properly in the wake of what can be expected to become increasingly shrill demands for ‘Western values’ across a region that has a subtly differing philosophies.
Chris Devonshire-Ellis is the Chairman of Dezan Shira & Associates. The firm assists British and Foreign Investment into Asia and has 28 offices throughout China, India, the ASEAN nations and Russia. For strategic and business intelligence concerning China’s Belt & Road Initiative please email email@example.com or visit us at www.dezshira.com