Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) members announced yesterday the start of negotiations aimed at establishing a free-trade zone involving the six countries in the region -- Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
Regional economic cooperation, an integral part of the SCO, will help enhance friendly ties among member countries, said economic and trade ministers of the six member countries in a statement.
"The negotiations will first focus on the facilitation of trade and investment and then go on to discuss setting up a free-trade zone," said Shi Guangsheng, minister of foreign trade and economic cooperation.
Shi, also chairman of the first meeting of the economic and trade ministers of the six SCO members, said a research team of experts would be set up in one month to discuss detailed plans and measures.
The meeting also decided to turn the event into an annual one, held in the six member countries in turn, he told reporters. The next meeting is likely to be held in Kyrgyzstan in the latter half of 2003.
Shi said he expected trade and economic cooperation among the six members to expand more rapidly after the meeting, at which economic and trade ministers reached "extensive agreement" on regional economic cooperation and on the annual meeting.
(China Daily May 29, 2002)