Chinese premier calls on SCO member countries to improve interconnectivity

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (C, front) attends the 17th meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Council of Heads of Government in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on Oct. 12, 2018. (Xinhua/Li Tao)

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Friday called on member countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to promote the construction of regional cross-border railway networks and consistently improve the "soft environment" for interconnectivity.

Li made the remarks at the 17th meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of Government in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe.

He emphasized that interconnectivity among the SCO member countries is not only a necessary requirement of regional development and cooperation, but also the focus of building the Belt and Road, which is conducive to creating a new pattern of Eurasia's coordinated development.

"A convenient and efficient transportation network serves as an important prerequisite for facilitating the free flow of production factors, cross-border trade and people-to-people exchanges," he said.

Initiated in 2001, the SCO has recently witnessed a series of achievements of regional interconnectivity among its member states.

The Chinese premier suggested the SCO member states continue to improve the cooperation mechanism among railway departments, enhance the synergy of policies, technologies and standards, as well as build multi-model logistics centers and simplify border, customs and quarantine procedures of cargo clearance by applying advanced technology.

The following is the full text of the speech:

Speech by H.E. Li Keqiang

Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China

At the 17th Meeting of the Council of Heads of Government of Member States of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization

Dushanbe, 12 October 2018

Prime Minister Kokhir Rasulzoda,

Colleagues,

It gives me great pleasure to join you in Tajikistan, the country of mountains, for the 17th Meeting of the Council of Heads of Government of Member States of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). On behalf of the Chinese government, I wish to thank the government of Tajikistan for the thoughtful preparations and arrangements made for our meeting.

Since its inception 17 years ago, the SCO has achieved fruitful results in security, economic, and people-to-people exchanges and cooperation, and contributed to peace and stability of the Eurasian continent and development and prosperity of the region.

Last June, the first SCO summit with an expanded membership was successfully held in Qingdao, China. At this milestone event, the Qingdao Declaration was adopted and a blueprint was drawn up for SCO's development in the new historical stage. President Xi Jinping and other SCO leaders reached important consensus on further promoting the Shanghai Spirit under the new circumstances, enhancing unity and mutual trust among old and new members, fostering an even closer SCO community with a shared future, and building a community with a shared future for mankind. The Qingdao Summit injected strong impetus into SCO's future development. The international community looks to the SCO to exert greater influence and play a bigger role in regional and international affairs.

As we speak, the international landscape continues to be complicated by rising uncertainties and destabilizing factors, a weak world economic recovery, growing trend toward unilateralism and protectionism, flare-ups of regional hotspots, and worsening terrorist and other non-conventional security threats. In this context, SCO member states face both the arduous task of development and challenges to security and stability.

China stands ready to work with fellow SCO members to implement the Qingdao Declaration, the Outline for the Implementation of the Treaty on Long-term Good Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation and other SCO documents, promote greater synergy of development strategies, and strengthen policy communication and coordination. With greater unity and more efficient cooperation, the SCO will play a bigger role in promoting peace and stability in the region and common development of all countries. In this connection, I propose we make efforts in the following areas.

First, we need to deepen security cooperation to provide a reliable underpinning for common development. The security issues facing regional countries are often intertwined and go beyond national borders. They pose severe risks to economic and social development of all countries and thus require a joint response.

SCO member states should embrace a vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, step up coordination and cooperation on security issues, and enhance capabilities for law enforcement and security operations. We need to earnestly implement the cooperation program for combating terrorism, separatism and extremism, expand intelligence and information exchanges, and continue to carry out joint exercises on counter-terrorism. We need to build on the momentum of the signing of the SCO Anti-drug Strategy at the Qingdao Summit to intensify the fight against drug planting, processing and trafficking, and strive to cut off funding for terrorist organizations.

We need to deepen cooperation on cybersecurity and continue to crack down on the spread of extremist ideology by extremist forces via the internet and ICT tools. China will complete domestic procedures for the SCO Convention on Countering Extremism to create conditions for its early entry into force.

We need to follow through on the consensus concerning joint security support for major projects and adopt robust measures to ensure personnel and property safety of the institutions and companies of all SCO members. We need to continue to support the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group and actively contribute SCO's wisdom to the political resolution of the Afghan issue.

Second, we need to strengthen multilateral economic cooperation and trade to unleash the huge potential of common development. In the context of setbacks in economic globalization and backlash against the multilateral trading regime, SCO members are encountering new challenges in economic development. Past experience shows that development cannot be achieved behind closed doors, and opening up is the right way forward.

In recent years, trade between China and other SCO members and among other members themselves has kept growing, making everyone a beneficiary of free trade and regional cooperation. We need to firmly support free trade and the rules-based multilateral trading regime and further advance trade and investment liberalization and facilitation. We also need to take solid steps to implement the Program of Multilateral Trade and Economic Cooperation, launch feasibility studies on an SCO FTA, and develop institutional arrangements for closer regional economic cooperation. The Chinese side hereby proposes negotiations on an SCO framework on trade in services and the establishment of an industrial and commercial alliance for e-commerce to further invigorate regional trade and economic cooperation.

Agricultural trade is another promising area of cooperation. China is ready to import more high-quality agricultural products from fellow SCO member states. Likewise, we hope to see more specialty Chinese agro-products on the dinner tables of families in other SCO members. The first China International Import Expo will be held in Shanghai next month. We welcome businesses from all SCO countries to participate in the exhibition.

Third, we need to advance industrial capacity cooperation to explore effective pathways toward common development. Industrial capacity cooperation can help countries leverage their resource endowments and comparative strengths, catalyze industrial transformation and upgrading, and advance industrialization and urbanization.

China has set up seven national-level economic and trade cooperation zones in other SCO member states and reaped early harvests in a number of regional projects of industrial capacity cooperation, which have started to boost growth and create jobs for the local communities. The Chinese side will continue to support efforts to take its advanced equipment and high-quality industrial capacity overseas, encourage leading businesses to invest in SCO countries, and expand mutually beneficial cooperation with SCO countries in areas such as infrastructure, processing, manufacturing, energy exploitation and agriculture.

Industrial capacity cooperation requires strong investment and financing support. Chinese investment stock in SCO member states has reached 84.6 billion U.S. dollars, much of which has been channeled to projects in this area. To ensure adequate funding support for industrial capacity cooperation projects in the region, we also need to make the best use of financing platforms such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the Silk Road Fund, SCO Interbank Consortium and China-Eurasia Economic Cooperation Fund. Meanwhile, we may continue our discussions at the expert level to explore a feasible plan for setting up an SCO development bank, with the specific aim of providing reliable financial services for practical cooperation among SCO member states.

Fourth, we need to enhance connectivity to provide a stronger engine of common development in the long term. Convenient and efficient transportation networks are critical to the free flow of production factors, cross-border trade and travels. Enhanced connectivity among SCO member states is needed for continued development and cooperation in the region and is also a priority of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as it will contribute to interconnected development of the Eurasian continent.

Recent years have seen notable headway in SCO connectivity building, as evidenced by better railway infrastructure in countries along the routes of the China-Europe freight train service, more sophisticated intra-region cross-border road networks, and a number of oil and gas pipelines that are powering the economic development of various countries. As the next step, we need to expedite discussions on an SCO program for road development, earnestly implement the Agreement among the Governments of the SCO Member States on International Road Transportation Facilitation and ensure the operationalization of the planned road connections by 2020.

Guided by the first meeting of heads of the SCO railway administrations, we should continue to enhance the cooperation mechanism among our railway administrations, improve the harmonization of policies, technologies and standards, and expand the cross-border railway networks in the region. Efforts should also be made to set up multimodal logistics centers and equip them with up-to-date technologies to automate and simplify border, customs and sanitary procedures for goods clearance in order to create an enabling "soft environment."

Fifth, we need to harness innovation to foster new driving forces for common development. This round of technological and industrial revolution is characterized by the rapid emergence of next-generation information technologies like the internet, big data and artificial intelligence. Against this backdrop, countries are all working to cultivate new areas of growth.

As we the SCO member states are at a critical development phase, we should make the most of this opportunity to increase resource input in science, technology and innovation and upgrade the industrial structure with new technologies, new forms of business and new models. This will help us speed up the transition from old growth drivers to new ones and achieve better quality of economic development.

We need to step up cooperation in innovation by developing closer ties among our research institutions. In this context, the 2019-2020 Plan of Practical Measures (Roadmap) for Cooperation among Research Institutions of the SCO Member States to be adopted today should be well implemented, with priority given to experience-sharing and technological cooperation in digital economy, smart manufacturing, bio-technologies, clean energy and meteorology.

We need to tap the potential through more training and exchange programs for our science and technology professionals. China will invite young scientists from other SCO member states for short-term research and study programs in China, and will host an SCO young innovators and entrepreneurs competition later this year and a seminar on the management of science and technology parks next year. We welcome your participation and believe that through our joint efforts, we can add a strong impetus to innovation and entrepreneurship.

Sixth, we need to promote people-to-people ties to cement public support for common development. Good-neighborliness and friendship are our shared aspiration. People-to-people interactions bring us closer. We need to continue with exchanges and cooperation in education, culture, health, environmental protection, sports and tourism and among our youth to deepen the bonds and mutual trust among our people. We need to make greater efforts to develop the University of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to cultivate a reservoir of talent in nanotechnology, IT, ecology and other areas.

To follow up on the Concept for SCO Member States' Cooperation in Environmental Protection, we need to formulate its implementation plans as early as possible to promote green development in the SCO region. We also need to collaborate on disaster prevention and relief by improving forecast, early warning and information sharing mechanisms for major disasters and applying more advanced science and technologies to our training and cooperation in this area. China hopes to encourage cooperation among medical institutions of member states under the SCO hospital alliance. We are ready to leverage Xinjiang as an international medical service center to provide other SCO countries with cross-border telemedical services.

China will continue to organize popular programs such as the youth camps. We propose making the Congress of Women and the Media Forum SCO's regular activities. We applaud the establishment of the SCO Heads of Region Forum and would be glad to host its meeting in Chongqing next year. All this will serve to carry forward the friendship among the SCO countries.

China supports closer cooperation with observer states and partners and more engagement and dialogue with the United Nations and other international organizations. China commends the work of the SCO Secretariat and Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS), and calls on parties to increase funding and human resources to support these permanent bodies in fulfilling their duties.

Colleagues,

This year marks the 40th anniversary of reform and opening-up in China. Over the past four decades, China has not only made remarkable progress but also contributed to world economic development. Going forward, China will keep to the course of reform and opening-up and roll out reform measures in all respects to streamline administration, delegate powers, improve government services, further widen market access, exercise fair and equitable regulation and supervision, enhance convergence with international economic and trade rules, fully protect intellectual property rights, and create a business environment in which Chinese and foreign-owned enterprises are treated as equals and compete on a level playing field. These measures will help to maintain China's position as a magnet for foreign investment.

Five years after it was first announced, the BRI has become a popular international public good that is delivering broad benefits. It is also a testimony to China's commitment to opening up and sharing development opportunities with the world. BRI was first proposed in an SCO member, and SCO serves as an important platform for BRI endeavors. China is ready to further synergize the BRI with development strategies of fellow SCO members in the spirit of consultation, cooperation and benefit for all. Through these efforts we hope to make the SCO an example of openness, cooperation and common development among regional countries.

According to a Tajik proverb, "One cannot carry two watermelons with one hand." Similarly, we Chinese believe one hand cannot clap. Unity leads to success, and cooperation creates a bright future. Let's follow the Shanghai Spirit and forge ahead with mutual trust and mutual benefit. Together, we will usher in an even brighter future for the SCO.

Thank you.

Editor: 曹家宁
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