Vladimir Norov: “Infrastructure mega-projects will help the economic breakthrough of the SCO”

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Vladimir Norov: “Infrastructure mega-projects will help the economic breakthrough of the SCO” 18.12.2018 16:14

Since the beginning of its history, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization has been pursuing the task of strengthening stability, security and developing economic cooperation on the territory of its member states. Over the years of its existence, new members have joined the organization, and today more than half of the population of the entire globe lives in the SCO states. New recent challenges have forced the organization to step up its anti-terrorism activities and intensify economic cooperation among member countries.

Correspondent of “Eurasia. The expert"talked with Vladimir Norov, director of the Institute of Strategic and Interregional Studies under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, who in January 2019 will assume the post of Secretary General of the SCO, and found out what security tasks the organization intends to solve in the near future and with what measures The SCO plans to strengthen trade and economic cooperation among the member states.

- Mr. Norov, you have been appointed to the position of the SCO Secretary General. Please tell me, how do you assess the prospects for the development of the SCO and its role in ensuring regional security?

- Since its inception, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization has taken a worthy place among the authoritative and influential international organizations. Over the past period, the SCO has become an effective factor of security, stability and sustainable development at the regional and global level.

This is evidenced by the growing interest in cooperation with the SCO of a number of countries in neighboring and distant regions, as well as other international and regional organizations. In this, a key role is played by the commitment of the SCO member states to the “Shanghai spirit”, which implies “mutual trust and benefit”, “equality”, “striving for common development”, and “respect for the diversity of cultures”.

In this regard, the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev during his speech at the SCO summit in Qingdao emphasized the growing role of the Organization as an important mechanism for shaping regional and global policies, ensuring security and sustainable development of the Eurasian continent.

- How does an organization consisting of so different states manage to preserve its integrity? What is the way that holds it together?

- The strict observance of the principles of openness, non-alignment and consensus, which are enshrined in the Charter and other fundamental documents of the Organization, is extremely important, indispensable. In our opinion, adherence to these principles, which have justified themselves in practice, makes it possible to exclude the emergence of disputes and disagreements, which can not only adversely affect the efficiency of the SCO’s activities, but also lead to its fragmentation and the formation of “interest groups”.

Continuing adherence to these fundamental principles is of particular relevance today, when the current international situation is characterized by increasing tensions and escalating armed conflicts in various regions of the world.

- What security challenges of the SCO country are considered the most significant?

- “Today, no one doubts the fact that the problem of the indivisibility of security has become more acute than ever, demanding from the global community a constructive dialogue in developing common approaches and responding adequately to the challenges and threats to regional and global security.

The SCO countries are united in understanding the need for coordinated and immediate measures to ensure regional security and stability, jointly counter modern challenges and threats, and combat illegal drug trafficking. In this regard, a significant event was the signing of the Agreement on cooperation in the fight against illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and their precursors in 2004, which created the legal basis for multilateral cooperation to counter the threat of drugs.

Moreover, since January 2004, the Executive Committee of the SCO Regional Antiterrorist Structure (RATS) began its operations in Tashkent. This permanent body has become an effective tool and platform for combining the efforts and practical interaction of law enforcement agencies and special services of the SCO member states in the fight against radical aggressive extremism and separatism, organized crime.

In this context, the main task is to focus on the youth environment, which, against the background of a complex of unresolved social, cultural and moral issues, becomes the main target of destructive forces.

- How can the younger generation be protected from this threat?

- It is necessary to protect our young people from falling into the network of extremist ideas, to deal with the root causes of these phenomena, and not with their consequences. This is precisely the focus of the Action Program for the implementation of the Joint Appeal of the Heads of State of the SCO Member States to Youth, adopted at the SCO summit in Qingdao in June of this year at the initiative of Uzbekistan.

According to some expert estimates, there are about 300 thousand representatives of the younger generation in the world who belong to religious extremist organizations in the world who have not reached 18 years of age. A significant role in this is played by the development of telecommunication technologies and an increase in the audience of the Internet, which has made the limitless possibilities of international terrorist organizations and extremist movements not only to spread their ideology, but also to create conditions for self-radicalization of the population, recruiting new, including young members.

In this regard, the practical component in the activities of the SCO Regional Antiterrorist Structure is being strengthened. According to the data of the RATS SCO, in 2015-2017 in the process of working together, more than 550 crimes of a terrorist and extremist nature were suppressed at the preparation stage. Over 700 improvised explosive devices, more than 50 tons of explosives have been seized. At the same time, accounts of 2,000 persons suspected of involvement in the financing of terrorism were blocked, more than 200 citizens of the SCO member states were not allowed to enter the ranks of international terrorist organizations.

- What are the main priorities for the development of the SCO today? What problems require a quick fix?

-  The changing nature of modern security challenges, their interweaving, the emergence of new, even more dangerous threats require the SCO to constantly keep its focus on the security situation in the region and in the world, analyze and study new phenomena and new trends in the international situation, respond promptly and adapt to new conditions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking at the SCO summit in Qingdao, noted that among the priority areas of the Shanghai organization’s work was to assist in political and diplomatic resolution of conflicts near the external borders of the organization’s member states.

In his opinion, the situation in Afghanistan requires special attention. It is important to work together to combat the terrorist threat emanating from the territory of this country, to stop the production and transit of drugs, to assist Afghanistan in the matter of national reconciliation, economic recovery and stabilization.

In turn, PRC Chairman Xi Jinping fully supported the Russian president, and also called on the Organization’s member states to promote peace and restore Kabul as the SCO Contact Group - Afghanistan. In view of this, the Chinese side is proposing to train 2,000 law enforcement officers for all parties over the next three years through the China National Institute for International Exchange and Judicial Cooperation of the SCO.

One would like to especially note the readiness and ability of the member states to consolidate common efforts to promote further struggle against modern challenges and threats, and to enhance the role of the SCO in regional and international politics.

“In the conditions of the spreading international trade wars, the economic potential of the SCO acquires particular importance. In October 2018, at a meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of Government, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev stressed that "the main economic blows are directed against Russia and China, the key members of the SCO, as well as Iran, our long-term partner." What economic measures can the SCO apply to protect free trade in the Eurasian region?

- First of all, it should be noted that the activities of the Shanghai association are not directed against other states or international organizations - this is one of the main fundamental principles of the SCO. The member states are ready to develop contacts and cooperation with other countries, international and regional organizations that share the goals and objectives set forth in the Charter of the SCO and other fundamental documents of the Organization.

The SCO is based on such principles as mutual respect for the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity of states and the inviolability of state borders, non-interference in internal affairs, non-use of force or the threat of force in international relations.

Preserving and further strengthening the SCO as an open non-aligned organization that eliminates a confrontational approach to solving the pressing problems of the regional and international agenda meets the long-term interests of all member countries of the Organization.

According to estimates of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in recent years there has been a tendency of increasing risks in the development of the world economy, and international trade barriers stand out as one of the key threats to the sustainability of global development. The presence of several risks in the face of a full-scale escalation of trade restrictive measures and a sudden surge in global inflation can adversely affect financial markets. This will lead to a weakening of economic growth and an increase in the number of unemployed, which is fraught with "increased political uncertainty and protectionist tendencies."

- How exactly do trade restrictions affect the situation in the world? What can the SCO do about this?

- According to economists, the growth of tariffs on imported goods between countries creates fluctuations in international trade. Such questions today arise not only between the United States and China, the United States and Russia, but also between the EU and the United States. In general, the global economic and trading system is experiencing an era of transformation. In this case, the Bretton Woods system is experiencing significant problems.

In this regard, the member states are ready to take a set of joint measures to facilitate trade rules and an unhindered flow of investments in the SCO region. It is important to take into account the interests and priorities of each Member State, excluding the format of cooperation that is different from each other, to combine approaches for the benefit of the development of the economic sector of the countries participating in the organization.

According to experts, the aggregate volumes of the national economies of the SCO countries account for more than 20% of the world gross domestic product. The IMF predicts that by 2020 these figures could reach 35%. With such a dynamic, by 2025 the volume of economies of the SCO member states may increase to 38-40%. Such rates are impressive, given the current ambiguous trends in the global economy. Moreover, the SCO countries have access to three oceans. These data suggest that the Organization has great potential.

- Does the SCO member countries have any plan to strengthen trade and economic cooperation within the organization?

- In the short term (until 2020), the SCO member states intend to strive to maximize the efficient use of regional resources on a mutually beneficial basis, to promote the creation of favorable conditions for trade and investment in order to gradually implement the free movement of goods, capital, services and technologies.

To this end, Member States will gradually carry out carefully prepared activities that meet the needs of regional cooperation; gradually eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers in mutual trade within the framework of the international obligations of the Parties; to hold the necessary consultations to develop concrete proposals for achieving the goals set within the SCO framework.

In this vein, a number of initiatives proposed by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev in the framework of the Qingdao Summit provide particular significance. Namely:

The first. The priority direction for deepening trade and economic relations between the Organization's member states, implementing industrial cooperation projects for the production of modern competitive products, as well as implementing joint investment projects proposed the simplification of customs procedures and the removal of non-tariff barriers. This will also be facilitated by the creation of a system of “green corridors”, which will allow organizing uninterrupted supplies of agricultural products, mastering new export markets, and promoting food security in our countries.

In this vein, I would like to point out a number of joint projects implemented. In particular, in May 2017 in the city of Kostanay of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan began joint production of Ravon cars. In July of this year, the Krantas Group Limited Liability Company of Uzbekistan and the Tajik aluminum company Talco jointly established a plant for special equipment Talco-Krantas. The joint venture will produce cranes, tractor trailers, semi-trailers and other types of special equipment.

Thus, it is possible to assert with confidence that the expansion of spheres and the list of co-production products in the future may become a new locomotive for the growth of national economies of Central Asian countries.

The second. In addressing the issue of the effective use of the transport and transit potential of the SCO space, an initiative was launched to form an “Integrated Transport Management System”, as well as to create a mechanism for regular meetings of the heads of the railway administrations of the SCO member states.

In order to implement this initiative, in September 2018, the first meeting of the heads of the railway administrations of the SCO member states was held in Tashkent under the chairmanship of Uzbekiston Temir Yollari JSC. At the end of the meeting, an Agreement was signed on the further development of cooperation between the railway administrations of the SCO member countries, defining the main directions corresponding to the unification of the Organization’s transport services.

- What other infrastructure projects are being implemented within the SCO?

- At present, the issue of building the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway is being updated. Kyrgyzstan, like Uzbekistan, which has no access to the sea, is interested in the successful development of transport routes that fully link trade between east and west. In this regard, in June 2018, as part of his state visit to China and the Qingdao SCO summit, Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov began negotiations with interested countries on the implementation of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan project.

According to experts, the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway will not only create the southern corridor of the Second Continental Transport Bridge, but will also allow opening new sales markets for products from three countries.

In turn, as noted by the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev in the framework of the Qingdao Summit, infrastructure mega-projects can contribute to a qualitative economic breakthrough of the SCO.

In particular, the implementation of the Eurasian high-speed railway on the route Beijing-Astana-Moscow-Berlin, which will provide a powerful multiplier effect, will enable the use of scientific and financial potential, employ a large number of specialists from member states, and also combine the promising format of interaction between the SCO and the EAEU, possibly in the future of the European Union.

Moreover, since January 20, 2017, the Agreement between the governments of the SCO member states on the creation of favorable conditions for international road transport came into force, the draft of which was signed in 2014 in Dushanbe at the meeting of the Council of Heads of the SCO member states.

According to this document, the parties grant carriers the right to carry out international road transport through the territory of their states by vehicles registered in the territory of the state of one of the parties. International road transport is carried out along several routes passing through the territory of all SCO countries. In this case, carriers are exempt from paying fees and charges associated with owning or using vehicles, as well as with the use or maintenance of highways of the state of the other party.

In my opinion, this document established the legal basis of parity conditions for road carriers and laid a uniform basis for international road transport on routes from Eastern Europe to China’s east coast. Thus, the agreement contributes to the expansion of the whole complex of trade and economic relations, increasing mutual trade turnover, attracting investments and forming a modern and extensive system of transport routes in the SCO space.