By Svetlana Andreyeva
Russia is a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which brings it together with China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Already a political and diplomatic heavyweight, the SCO is now paying increasing attention to the economy, including trade, mutual investment and economic coordination between states and individual businesses.
The organization’s latest prime ministerial summit in an imperial palace outside St Petersburg Monday heard an opinion about this from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin:
“By working together, we can add a new quality to the SCO and make the organization a key element of the world’s economic, as well as political, architecture and upgrade it to a productive dialogue forum which brings it together with many other regional and global international bodies. At a time of global economic trouble, it’s coordination that can bring help.”
Putin proposed what he called the Energy Club of the SCO and also argued that economic growth in SCO member states and the organization’s role as a bridge between Europe and Asia can be greatly facilitated by joint infrastructure arrangements. For these, however, adequate funding must be in place:
“The common infrastructure, innovation and technologies that enable the SCO to pool resources can be supported by joint banks, already on mid-term development plans. Trade settlements in SCO currencies are also essential, as is the attraction of capital through stock exchanges in Moscow, Shanghai and Hong Kong.”
Putin’s initiatives for joint banking and trade in CSO currencies immediately won the support of his colleagues from Kazakhstan and China, Karim Masimov and Wen Jiabao. Mr Masimov said he hoped a big joint bank could help the CSO weather the economic storms in the surrounding world. Mr Wen offered easy Chinese credit for funding joint infrastructure projects. He also backed an initiative by Kazakhstan for trans-Eurasian oil and gas pipes and power lines and an initiative by Tajikistan and Uzbekistan for a network of modern railways and roads across the CSO.
The St Petersburg summit re-iterated assurances of SCO’s openness to new potential members, observer members, collaborators and guests. Two of the current observer members, India and Pakistan, said they would like to become full members. Their bids will go before the next presidential summit of the SCO.