MTT Exclusive: Rifah Proposes Union of ECO States

Rifah Proposes Union of ECO States

ECO is an intergovernmental organization involving seven Asian and three Eurasian nations to promote trade and investment opportunities. The ECO is an ad hocorganization under the United Nations Charter (Chap. VIII). The common objective is to establish a single market for goods and services, much like the European Union. ECO’s secretariat and cultural department are located in Tehran, its economic bureau is in Turkey and its scientific bureau is situated in Pakistan. The organization’s population is 416,046,863, a third more than that of the USA, and the area is 8,620,697 km² almost equal to that of China as well as the USA.

History and role

Economic Cooperation Organization is an intergovernmental regional organization established in 1985 by Iran, Pakistan and Turkey for the purpose of promoting economic, technical and cultural cooperation among the member states. It was the successor organisation of what was the Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD), founded in 1964, which ended activities in 1979. In the fall of 1992, the ECO expanded to include seven new members, namely Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

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The status and power of the ECO is growing. However, the organization faces many challenges. Most importantly, the member states lack appropriate infrastructure and institutions which the Organization is primarily seeking to develop, to make full use of available resources in the region for sustainable development for the member nations.

The Economic Cooperation Organisation Trade Agreement (ECOTA) was signed on 17 July 2003 in Islamabad. ECO Trade Promotion Organization (TPO) is a new organization for trade promotion among member states located in Iran (2009).

Member states

Official name


Area (km²)


(per km²)

GDP (2010)(nominal)[4] GDP (2010)
(per capita)

Official languages
Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Kabul 647,500 29,662,000 46 $16,968 million $572 Afghani Dari, Pashto
Republic of Azerbaijan Baku 86,600 9,040,000 104 $51,787 million $5,728 Manat Azerbaijani
Islamic Republic of Iran Tehran 1,648,195 75,350,000 46 $359,970 million $4,777 Rial Persian
Republic of Kazakhstan Astana 2,724,900 15,584,000 6 $126,346 million $8,107 Tenge Kazakh
Kyrgyz Republic Bishkek 199,900 5,444,000 27 $5,122 million $940 Som Kyrgyz, Russian
Islamic Republic of Pakistan Islamabad 803,940 166,578,000 207 $177,901 million $1,068 Rupee Urdu, English
Republic of Tajikistan Dushanbe 143,100 6,536,000 46 $5,499 million $841 Somoni Tajik
Republic of Turkey Ankara 783,562 71,428,000 91 $710,737 million $9,950 Lira Turkish
Turkmenistan Ashgabat 488,100 5,439,000 11 $20,232 million $3,720 Manat Turkmen
Republic of Uzbekistan Tashkent 447,400 28,246,000 63 $37,290 million $1,320 Som Uzbek


  • Sustainable economic development of Member States;
  • Progressive removal of trade barriers and promotion of intra- regional trade; Greater role of ECO region in the growth of world trade; Gradual integration of the economies of the Member States with the world economy;
  • Development of transport & communications infrastructure linking the Member States with each other and with the outside world;
  • Economic liberalization and privatization;
  • Mobilization and utilization of ECO region’s material resources;
  • Effective utilization of the agricultural and industrial potentials of ECO region;
  • Regional cooperation for drug abuse control, ecological and environmental protection and strengthening of historical and cultural ties among the peoples of the ECO region;
  • Mutually beneficial cooperation with regional and international organizations.

Principles of cooperation

  • Sovereign equality of the Member States and mutual advantage;
  • Linking of national economic, development plans with ECO’s immediate and long-term objectives to the extent possible;
  • Joint efforts to gain freer access to markets outside the ECO region for the raw materials and finished products of the Member States;
  • Effective utilization of ECO institutions, agreements and cooperative arrangements with other regional and international organizations including multilateral financial institutions;
  • Common endeavors to develop a harmonized approach for participation in regional and global arrangements;
  • Realization of economic cooperation strategy; and Exchanges in educational, scientific, technical and cultural fields

Organization structure

  • The Council of Ministers ( COM ) is the highest policy and decision-making body and is composed of Ministers of Foreign Affairs or such other representatives of the Ministerial rank as may be designated by the Government. The council of Ministers meets at least once a year by rotation among the Member States.
  • The Council of Permanent Representatives (CPR) is consisting of the Permanent Representatives/Ambassadors of the Member States accredited to the Islamic Republic of Iran as well as to the ECO and the Director General for ECO Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
  • The Regional Planning Council (RPC) is composed of the Head of the Planning Organization of the Member States or such other representatives of corresponding authorities.
  • The General Secretariat consists of six Directorates under the supervision of the Secretary General and his Deputies. Two Specialized Agencies and six Regional Institutes are acting under the supervision of the General Secretariat.
    • Directorate of Industry & Agriculture
    • Directorate of Trade & Investment
    • Directorate of Energy, Minerals & Environment
    • Directorate of Transport and Communications
    • Directorate of Economic Research & Statistics
    • Directorate of Project Research

Secretary Generals

# Name Nat Period
1 Alireza Salari Iran 1988 – 1992
2 Shamshad Ahmad Pakistan 1992 – 1996
3 Onder Ozar Turkey 1996 – 2000
4 Abdolrahim Gavahi Iran August 2000 – July 2002
5 Seyed Mojtaba Arastou Iran July 2002 – August 2003
6 Bekzhassar Narbayev Kazakhstan August 2003 – January 2004
7 Askhat Orazbay Kazakhstan January 2004 – August 2006
8 Khurshid Anwar Pakistan August 2006 – August 2009
9 Yahya Maroofi Afghanistan August 2009 – August 2012

ECO Trade and Development Bank was established by the three founding members of the ECO in 2005; Iran, Pakistan and Turkey. Its subscribed capital is 300 million SDR, which is to be paid by the member countries equally. The mission of the ECO Trade & Development Bank is to initiate, promote and provide financial facilities to expand intra-regional trade and to promote the economic development of ECO member countries. For the first five years starting from November 2006, the President of the Bank is from Turkey (Mr. Murat Ulus) and the position of the President will pass to other member countries on a four-year rotation. The HQ of the Bank is in Istanbul, Turkey.

ECO Cultural Institute (ECI) is affiliated with ECO and aims at fostering understanding and the preservation of the rich cultural heritage of its members through common projects in the field of the media, literature, art, philosophy, sport and education. ECI’s Charter was signed on 15 March 1995 in Islamabad, Pakistan.


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