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Economic security is key
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Eight years ago today on June 15, 2001, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan jointly proclaimed the establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, with its foundation firmly rooted in mutual support for each other's core independence, sovereignty and security.

In these eight years, the member states have made significant headway in multilateral cooperation - in areas ranging from politics and economy to culture and people-to-people communication.

Above all, they joined hands to resolutely battle terrorism, separatism and extremism in order to secure national and regional stability as a prerequisite for economic development.

As the leaders meet today for the Ninth SCO summit in Russia's third largest city, Yekaterinburg, it is time that the states carry their cooperation to a more mature level that enables them not only to enhance political and security collaboration but also to bring out the potential for freer trade and investment among them.

Without doubt, the member states still have tremendous security tasks ahead. That is why the leaders will not only discuss the issue among themselves but also with leaders of India, Iran, Pakistan and Mongolia (which are observer states) as well as with the Afghanistan president, a guest of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

A SCO Counterterrorism Convention that the member-states are expected to sign will provide the legal and regulatory framework for their cooperation in combating terrorism, illegal weapons trade, drugs trafficking and cross-border crimes in the region.

However, since the credit crunch that started in the US last October, no member state has been spared the impact of the global financial crisis. Even though there are signs that some of the countries are bottoming out of economic slowdown, we must still heed President Medvedev's cautionary note that, "it is too soon to uncork the champagne".

Therefore, how to further deepen economic cooperation among the SCO members should figure high on the agenda of the assembled leaders. Only by forging ahead with a freer and more convenient trade and investment regime will the states be able to extend their collaboration to more sectors; which, in turn, will enrich mutual political trust, enhance unity and, above all, ensure faster economic recovery in the region.

What must be borne in mind is that the combined territory of the six SCO memberstates accounts for 60 percent of the Eurasian continent and 25 percent of the world population. The well-being and improved livelihood of this population are essential for ensuring social stability and national security in the SCO member states.

(China Daily June 15, 2009)

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