TASHKENT, June 24 (Xinhua) — The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will enter a new phase of aligning regional economic cooperation with fulfillment of the “Belt and Road” initiative, on the basis of great contribution in the past, a senior Chinese official said here Thursday.

During the past 15 years since its establishment, the SCO has made great contribution to regional stability and prosperity, said Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng in a joint interview with leading Chinese news media on the sidelines of a SCO summit.

For 15 years, SCO member states have been upholding the “Shanghai Spirit”, completing rules and systems, defining the orientation of cooperation, and actively proposing the open and inclusive, mutually beneficial style of relationship among countries, making important contribution to regional stability and prosperity, said Gao.

During the 15-year period, the economic and trade cooperation between China and other member states has become closer, cross-border e-commerce and other new types of trade have developed rapidly, and economic and technological cooperation has born remarkable fruits.

“At the same time the ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative has injected new powerful impetus into the SCO regional economic cooperation,” said the minister.

The Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt that links China with Europe through Central and Western Asia by inland routes, and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road connecting China with Southeast Asia, Africa and Europe by sea routes. It is is a development strategy and framework that focuses on inter-connectivity and cooperation among countries primarily in Eurasia.

In the interview, Gao said during the Ufa SCO summit in July 2015, representatives reached consensus on building the “Belt and Road”, marking a new stage of the alignment between SCO regional economic cooperation and the initiative.

Gao expressed the belief that future regional economic cooperation within the framework of the SCO, guided by the “Belt and Road” Initiative, should focus on constant promotion of trade facilitation to higher levels, inter-connectivity, innovation of new models of capacity cooperation, and establishment of investment and financing systems with pluralistic cooperation.

At the Ufa summit last year, China initiated four proposals including regional inter-connectivity, capacity cooperation, capacity building and financial cooperation among member states. The minister said the Chinese side has actively implemented the economic and trade initiatives, achieving fruitful results.

First, China has promoted regional interoperability. A series of projects for inter-connectivity have been fulfilled or are under construction in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia or other countries.

Second, capacity cooperation has started in full swing. China and Kazakhstan have identified 52 early harvest projects. In Kyrgyzstan, the completion of the construction of the “Datka-Kemin” 500kv power transmission line in August 2015 has helped the country to gain its highly sought-after energy independence.

Third, China has helped SCO countries to strengthen their capacity.

Fourth, China has carried out important investment and financial projects with other member states. China has signed border trade currency settlement agreements with Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, a cross-border trade settlement currency agreement with Tajikistan, and currency swap agreements with Russia, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.

On the work of the Chinese side to promote trade and investment facilitation within the framework of the SCO, Gao said China has further enriched its trade facilitation policy system, advanced customs and quality inspection cooperation, lifted customs clearance facilitation to higher levels, furthered e-commerce and other innovative trade, and promoted regional financial cooperation and cross-border trade accounts settlement in national currencies.

Finally, Gao expressed the belief that the SCO Tashkent summit will further implement the Ufa summit achievements, draw new blueprint for the bloc’s future development, and promote further regional economic cooperation in the interest of the peoples of member states.

By Xinhua