Economic integration a key part of SCO

Updated: 2014-12-15 11:08


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BEIJING -- The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is generally viewed as a security bloc, but the changing circumstances in the region has made economic cooperation an equally important strategic goal.

The upcoming prime ministers' meeting of the SCO, which consists of China, Russia and four Central Asian countries, is likely to unveil new measures to boost economic integration among member states.

In fact, the six-member organization has been expanding fast into economy and trade, although security issues remain at the top of the SCO agenda.

The bloc has created mechanisms such as the SCO Business Council and SCO Interbank Consortium. Trade volume between China and other member states jumped from $12.1 billion in 2001 to $130 billion in 2013. Their economic output totaled 14.9 percent of the world economy, compared with just 4.8 percent in 2001.

The scale and level of multilateral economic cooperation among member states, however, remain underdeveloped compared with their tightening security relations. Covering about three-fifths of the Eurasia landmass and a quarter of the world's population, the bloc could unleash great potential in trade and investment to benefit the lives of billions of people.

As is the case with many multilateral mechanisms, a strong economy serves as a sound basis for broad-based cooperation. Joint initiatives in energy, infrastructure, agriculture and finance would not only keep up the momentum of the regional bloc, but also help build consensus among member states.

Given multiple risks and uncertainties in the world economy, such as looming deflation, tumbling energy prices, and thorny geo-political issues, SCO members should join hands to prop up growth.

A good opportunity is China's proposal of building a Silk Road Economic Belt. The idea was first brought up by President Xi Jinping during a visit to Central Asia last year, and has since witnessed China's tangible commitments, including the $40 billion New Silk Road Fund set up in November to directly support the initiative.

Boosting connectivity along the ancient Silk Road will bring strategic benefits to countries in the SCO. The establishment of a Eurasian transport corridor in the spirit of the ancient Silk Road will spur trade and investment between Asia, Europe, Middle East and Africa.

This year's prime ministers' meeting is expected to implement the consensus reached by presidents of the member states in September, and make specific arrangement on security and economic cooperation.

Security and economic cooperation, the two "wheels" of the regional bloc, will reinforce each other in the pursuit of long-term peace, stability and prosperity in the region.

More than a decade after its inception, the SCO has become a key part in the security system of the Eurasia continent. There is much to expect from its economic action.