Specialized Committees, 20th Executive Committee and 14th General Assembly of ECO CCI Held in Ankara, Turkey

Specialized committees on Transportation, ECO Business Rating Program, Trade Facilitation, Industry & Investment, Women Entrepreneurs, Tourism and Arbitration also 20th Executive Committee and 14th General Assembly of ECO Chamber of Commerce and Industry were held from 21 – 23 December 2015 hosted by TOBB in Ankara, Turkey.

On behalf of ACCI, Mr. Sadullah Haqyar, Head of Board of Directors’ Secretariat, Mr. Azeraksh Hafezi, Head of Board of Directors’ International Committee, Mr. Hashem Rasouli, International Relation Director, Mr. Bahir Katawazai, Finance Manager and Mr. Izzet Sadat, President of Afghan Businesses Association in Turkey attended the meetings.

As per the article 1 of ECO CCI Statue, 20th Executive Committee appointed Mr. Azeraksh Hafezi, Head of Board of Directors’ International Committee as Vice President of ECO CCI for 2016, on the recommendation from ACCI due to his eligibility of the next Presidency.

The following are brief reports of specialized committees:

7th Transportation Committee of ECO CCI:

Afghan delegation pointed out that since reactivation of Afghanistan’s TIR membership on 4 September 2013, this country has not efficiently benefited from this international transit convention. The reason behind that is complicated procedures of visa and road pass issuance from Afghanistan’s neighboring countries to Afghan traders and truck drivers. However, Afghanistan appreciates Turkish, Pakistani and Iranian governments for recently visa facilitation which has been put in to practice. But we need cooperation from the ECO region to facilitate visa and road pass issuance procedures for Afghanistan.

ECO Secretariat informed that Additional Protocol of the Agreement of Visa Simplification and Procedures for Business People and Drivers of ECO Region has been signed by only three members (Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan) and ratification of one member is also pending. It was also requested that cooperation may be extended for visa simplification and harmonization efforts and visa stickers under the Transit Transport Framework Agreement (TTFA) and other agreements.

It was decided that ECO CCI will submit a feasibility report of Visa Sticker System and then ECO Secretariat will follow up this issue with ECO countries by placing this matter in the next ministerial meeting. All national chambers should contact their governments to become part of this system.

2nd ECO Business Rating Program (BRP):

A technical presentation regarding Vision and Mission of the ECO BRP was discussed by Iranian Chamber. Aim of BRP is trade facilitation, visa facilitation, business promotion and etc. BRP was started by Iranian Chamber for information, manipulation of decision, and calculation of profitability for business people. The obstacle in businesses include lack of trade mechanism, business regulations and business capabilities in member states. This is creating a platform for business people to come together for business relations. If BRP is implemented by ECO countries efficiently, it will be easy finding profitable partners in the region, rating like Four Star or Five Star and also the banks can assess their loan offers accordingly. The national chambers can be responsible to implement BRP in their countries.

At this regard, Afghan delegation discussed on related issues to BRP and informed that every country should be included in designing BRP.

TOBB indicated that due to its legal framework, TOBB can’t rate the Turkish companies as they are TOBB’s members. TOBB also indicated that in most countries, the agency responsible for business rating require authorization and licensing such as in Turkey is entrusted with Capital Market Boards which is sole entity to issue authorization and licensing to rating companies.

ECO CCI suggested that first we need to identify the regulation and legal system for harmonization of BRP system. There should be an Expert Committee Meeting like Security Exchange Commission. We need to conduct regular/regulatory meeting through technical experts. Iran offered to host the technical experts meeting. Finally it was decided that one expert committee should study the rules and regulation for business rating requirement in each country by evaluating the need of such system under ECO.

7th Trade Facilitation Committee:

Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Kazakhstan emphasized on necessity preparation to remove the barriers, adopt legal infrastructure, reducing custom tariffs, develop regional projects such as CASA 1000 and TAPI and taking required steps to reduce transportation costs between ECO countries.

ECO CCI informed that in the recent RPC (Regional Planning Council) meeting, all members were requested to submit new list with the requirements of the new era and new scenario. Because after passing ten years of non-implementation of ECOTA (ECO Trade Agreement), list of goods has expired and so new list is needed for implementation of ECOTA.

ECO Secretariat informed that in the last meeting of RPC, it was decided that the 7th ECOTA meeting will be held in Iran in first of 2016. ECO secretariat also clarified that the new list has not been provided, only the proposal was received from Iran which has been circulated to the member states.

ECO Secretariat highlighted the Agreement on Establishment and Cooperation of ECO Smuggling and Custom Offences and Data Bank has so far singed by six member countries (Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Turkey) and ratified by three of the signatory. Simplification and harmonization of custom procedures is on the top of the agenda for the Council of Heads of Custom Administration (CHCA).

4th ECO Business Forum was going to be held on 28 December 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan, but due to not confirmation of participation for the business forum, this forum may be delayed for first quarter of 2016.

Afghan delegation also expressed readiness to host 5th ECO Business Forum in Afghanistan.

7th Industry & Investment Committee

ECO countries need to increase mutual investment, enhance competition and improve efficient and effective production and to promote industrialization and investment. TOBB stated that is ready to share its experiences in dealing with European Union. TOBB pointed out on importance of Agreement on Protection and Promotion of Investment (APPI) which has been signed by five countries only (Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and Turkey signed in 2005 – Iran and Pakistan in 2008). Other countries should sign the APPI for improvement level of investment.

Afghanistan informed about existing lots of investment opportunities in different sectors and mines in the country that require foreign investment in term of light and heavy industries. But share of ECO members are very less compared with other countries like China. Afghanistan offers lots of investment incentives to attract foreign investments.

ECO CCI informed that ECO Business Leaders Conclave may be organized in sideline with the Investment Promotion Agencies Conference. In response, Iran expressed its readiness to host in 2016.

8th Women Entrepreneurs Council

Turkey stated that number of women entrepreneurs in ECO region is very low. Hence we need to promote women entrepreneurship and support their transformation process from consumers to producers. TOBB Entrepreneurs Board which has been initiated by President of TOBB is an example at this regard.

ECO CCI reported about number of women entrepreneurs in ECO region, 41 percent of companies in Turkey have women participation, and this ratio is 40 percent in Uzbekistan, 34 percent in Tajikistan, 11 percent in Azerbaijan, 7 percent in Pakistan and 3 percent in Afghanistan. ECO CCI also continued that participation of women in parliament in Pakistan and Afghanistan is highest due to reserved seats for women.

It was decided that once ECO members introduce top five women entrepreneurs to attend the Workshop on the “Future of Women Entrepreneurship and Capabilities in the ECO Region.” Which will be held by TOBB at end of first half of 2016 in Kayseri, Turkey.

6th Tourism Committee:

Turkish delegates stated that beside the tourism resources and geographical advantage of the ECO countries, level of tourism isn’t at desired level. Turkey announced readiness to share its experiences in field of tourism with ECO countries by organizing a conference to bring tourism investors and agencies together in order to enhance cooperation among the member countries and the world. It was decided that concept paper of the program submitted from TOBB should be circulated among member countries for feedback and then would be presented at the next ECO CCI meetings.

ECO CCI and FPCCI informed that feasibility report for organizing of First Forum of Hotel Owners and Tours Operators in Pakistan is under review.

ECO Secretariat informed that ECO Tourism Promotion Fund has been approved by Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkey and they also have declared to provide financial contribution as soon as it becomes operative. Afghanistan and Kazakhstan have also announced to participate in the activities of the Fund.

Turkish Ministry of Health made a presentation on health tourism in Turkey and informed that visa issue is facilitating for health related issues. The Ministry also informed that the workshop on health tourism will be held on 26 – 30 September 2016 with collaboration of TOBB.

Iran expressed its readiness to organize 2nd Confobition (Conference + Exhibition) on Health Tourism in ECO member states . Further details will be arranged in communication with ECO CCI and ECO Secretariat.

ECO CCI informed that they took this matter with the airlines such as Turkish Airline, Emirates, and Qatar Airways for signing an agreement for introducing discount rates (20 percent) for group of tourist and businessmen in order to travel to ECO region on the recommendation of ECO CCI. This agreement is under consideration and will be communicated with chambers accordingly.

6th Arbitration Committee:

In 1995, it was decided that ECO Arbitration Center needs to be established. Rules and regulation of the arbitration center from Iran Chamber was internally formulated and communicated to other members in 2012. And then 21st RPC called ECO CCI to submit concrete proposals in order to establish the center.

ECO CCI pointed out creation of frictionless trade among ECO countries, a common regional arbitration center is required. Though seven out of ten ECO countries are WTO members, but arbitration in WTO is costly and time consuming procedure. While there are individual arbitration centers already operating in Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey.

Afghanistan also supported ECO Arbitration Center and highlighted that arbitration center in Afghanistan is longer history than ACCI. Arbitration process in Afghanistan has nothing to do with government. Therefore, government of Afghanistan can’t and should not be involved in process of establishment of ECO Arbitration Center. In ACCI, the Afghanistan Center for Dispute Resolution (ACDR) in working independently in the Chamber.

Turkey had two suggestions regarding arbitration mechanism. First, to set up a commission toward identifying and shortcoming the problematic area within the ECO countries. The commission can also organize educative meetings and seminars for the judges, lawyers, academics and law students from member states in order to increase the awareness of each other legislations, how the institutions work and etc. TOBB added that after all these, if the establishment of the ECO arbitration center is still going ahead, then the next step would be that all national chambers must sign and ECO Arbitration Convention Like Kiev Convention. TOBB also suggested that a subcommittee should have been established in order to prepare arbitration rules and internal regulations.

ECO CCI suggested that the Arbitration Center proposed by RPC/ECO Secretariat will be established in ECO CCI.

20th Executive Committee:

The Executive Committee was attended by H. E. Rifat Hisarciklioglu, President of TOBB, H. E. Cevdet Yilmaz, Turkish Minster of Development, H. E. Halil Ibrahim Acka, Secretary General of ECO and Mr. Gholamhossein Shefei, Vice President of Iranian Chamber, ambassadors of Iran, Pakistan and Tajikistan to Turkey.

President of TOBB pointed out that despite having 15 percent of the oil reserves and 24 percent of gas reserves of the world, we are not able to fully fulfill our requirements effectively and efficiently. Mr. Hisarciklioglu also underlined on removing barriers such visa requirements, provide more trade facilitation like implement ECOTA, ITI train project and so on.

Turkish Minister of Development highlighted importance of establishing an infrastructure in order to promote investment and trade and urged the members to cooperate with governments by giving the Private Public Partnership that is currently implemented by Turkey and it is a tool to attract Foreign Direct Investments to the region.

Mr. Hafezi, Vice President of ECO CCI pointed out that Turkey as a strong country due to presence in G-20 and D-8. Therefore this country can help other ECO members by sharing its experiences and others know how.

As part of the agenda, ACCI signed a Cooperation Agreement with the TOBB to establish an Afghan – Turkish Working Committee toward promoting trade between the two countries, to contribute industrial and technological collaboration between their enterprises and economic institutions, to coordinate joint efforts to collect, combine, analyze, evaluate and diffuse economic information and to cooperate in partnering two countries’ local chambers to strengthen mutual knowledge and understanding between local businesses and well as exchange of best practices in providing services to their members.

To find out photos of the meeting, please click here.