Ministers of the 11 CAREC member countries and representatives from multilateral development partners discussed progress in the program's four priority areas: transport, trade facilitation, energy, and trade policy.
The meeting was chaired by Pakistan's Minister for Finance, Revenue, Economic Affairs, Statistics, and Privatization Mohammad Ishaq Dar and co-chaired by Asian Development Bank (ADB) Vice President Wencai Zhang.
Pakistan Prime Mister Nawaz Sharif, in his keynote address, affirmed his country's commitment to promote economic and social development through regional cooperation.
PM Sharif noted the progress achieved so far by the CAREC Program and proposed measures to further boost regional cooperation. He called for the establishment of a pool of experts from sectors like finance, banking, energy, transport, and trade, which can be made accessible to governments of CAREC countries and likewise to businesses, schools, research, and nongovernment organizations.
Meanwhile, ADB President Takehiko Nakao, in his special address, said CAREC had made a valuable contribution to the region's development but its future will depend on how it adapts to changing economic and development conditions in the region and beyond.
"Regional infrastructure and trade facilitation will likely remain the core of the program but an expanded agenda and new approaches need to be considered," Nakao said.
Cumulatively, the CAREC Program has mobilized $28.9 billion of investments since it was set up in 2001, of which over a third, or $10.1 billion, was financed by ADB. (See full list of CAREC projects.)
The annual conference reviewed progress and recent key initiatives in the regional program's key priority areas.
Under transport, CAREC countries adopted a road safety strategy that aims to halve road fatalities in the region by 2030. CAREC ministers likewise endorsed the Railway Strategy 2017-2030, which prioritizes six designated railway corridors aligned with trade routes.
Modernization of customs and coordinated border management initiatives, such as joint customs control between Mongolia and the People's Republic of China, aim to improve regional transit and information exchange. CAREC's trade policy agenda contributes to the accession of member countries - most recently, Afghanistan and Kazakhstan -- to the World Trade Organization.
The CAREC Energy Investment Forum, held on 24 October, brought together key government officials and representatives from potential investors and development partners. The forum highlighted investment opportunities in the region and the increased role of the private sector in CAREC's efforts to create a more integrated regional market providing reliable, affordable, and sustainable energy.
CAREC ministers endorsed the CAREC 2020 Midterm Review (MTR). The purpose of the MTR is to review the relevance and responsiveness of CAREC 2020, the program's 10-year Strategic Framework, to draw lessons from the experience gained in the first five years of the strategy, and to propose refinements and strategies moving forward.
This year's ministerial meeting discussed progress in the implementation of the Almaty-Bishkek Corridor Initiative (ABCI) and the adoption of its Investment Framework. The ABCI is the pilot economic corridor development initiative of the CAREC Program.
CAREC ministers welcomed Georgia as the 11th country to join the program and expressed optimism that Georgia's participation in CAREC could increase synergies in the region and strengthen economic ties through regional cooperation.
In the sidelines of the MC, representatives of People's Republic of China, Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan signed the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) providing the legal basis for the CAREC Institute. Signing by other CAREC members and ratification of the agreement by signatory members are expected to follow.