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EghtesadOnline: During March 21-Aug. 22, Iran’s exports, excluding that of crude oil, stood at 7.31 million tons worth $4.12 billion, which indicate a 40% year-on-year rise in value.

Iran traded 9.1 million tons of goods (excluding crude oil exports) worth $6.89 billion with member states of the Economic Cooperation Organization during the first five months of the current Iranian year (March 21-Aug. 22) to register a 39% rise in value compared with the similar period of last year, according to the spokesperson of the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration.

“Iran’s exports, excluding crude oil, stood at 7.31 million tons worth $4.12 billion, which indicate a 40% year-on-year rise in value,” Rouhollah Latifi was quoted as saying by IRNA.

Turkey was the biggest export destination among ECO states under review, as it imported 3.68 million tons of Iranian goods worth $2.32 million during the period, up 110% in value YOY.

All changes in value cited below are calculated for year-on-year basis:

Turkey was followed by Afghanistan with 1.25 million tons worth $640.57 million (down 25%) and Pakistan with 1.08 million tons worth $474.75 million (up 13%).

Azerbaijan with $296 million, Turkmenistan with $166 million, Uzbekistan with $88 million, Kazakhstan with $61.2 million, Tajikistan with $45.6 million and Kyrgyzstan with $18.4 million were the other destinations.

Imports from ECO member states to Iran during the period stood at 1.79 million tons worth $2.77 billion, registering a 38% rise.

Turkey also topped the list of exporters to Iran with $2.16 billion, up 21%. It was followed by Pakistan with $429.34 million (up 375%) and Kazakhstan with $78.42 million (up 174%).

Uzbekistan with $32.6 million, Tajikistan with $26.2 million, Azerbaijan with $15.3 million, Turkmenistan with $14.4 million, Afghanistan with $10.4 million and Kyrgyzstan with $2.7 million were other exporters to Iran.

The Economic Cooperation Organization is an Asian political and economic intergovernmental organization, which was founded in 1985 in Tehran by the leaders of Iran, Pakistan and Turkey. It provides a platform to explore ways of improving development and promoting trade and investment opportunities. 

ECO’s ITI Road Corridor Activated 

A ceremony was held in October of last year at Murat Bey Customs Post in Istanbul, Turkey, to mark the arrival of the first two of Pakistan’s National Logistics Company trucks carrying goods from Pakistan to Turkey, via Iran, under the Transports Internationaux Routiers Convention.

The NLC trucks departed from Karachi on Sept. 28 and reached Istanbul on Oct. 7, covering a distance of 5,300 kilometers, Pakistan Observer reported.

The ceremony was attended by senior officials of the Turkish Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure, Ministry of Trade, Chamber of Commerce and Commodity Exchanges, as well as the International Road Transport Union, ECO Secretariat and Iran’s Ministry of Roads and Urban Development.

Members and representatives of the Turkish private sector active in the transportation sector and representatives of NLC and Pakistan’s Ambassador to Turkey Muhammad Syrus Qazi, accompanied by representatives of Pakistan’s Embassy and Consulate, participated in the ceremony. 

Umberto de Pretto, secretary-general of IRU, based in Geneva, Switzerland, also attended the ceremony.

The participants hailed the development as a vital step in promoting connectivity and enhancing trade between Pakistan and Turkey.

Qazi highlighted the government of Pakistan’s focus on geoeconomics and how regional connectivity was crucial in this regard. He hailed the trial run of NLC trucks as a major step that will strengthen road connectivity between Pakistan and Turkey, and also help promote bilateral trade.

The ambassador noted that operationalization of this road link will help reduce transportation cost and time. Reviving the Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul road transport corridor will generate revenue, boost trade and increase economic cooperation among ECO member states. 

After the initial successful run, NLC intends to increase and regularize the transport of goods between Pakistan and Turkey, helping bring the two countries closer.

Javad Hedayati, director general of Transit Affairs Bureau of Road Maintenance and Transportation Organization of Iran, says the ITI Corridor can easily replace the Suez Canal route.

“ECO’s ITI transportation corridor holds huge potential. For one thing, transportation time between Istanbul and Pakistan is reduced to 10-12 days from 25-30 days [through the Suez Canal]. Moreover, the corridor reduces transportation costs by 30%,” he was quoted as saying by the news portal of the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development.

According to the official, transportation costs rose dramatically in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This has made road freight transport even more cost-effective. Today, there is a great opportunity for us to use our transit corridors, ITI in particular, to their full potential,” Hedayati said. 

Rail Cargo Services Resume After 10 Years

Resuming operations after 10 years, the first Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul train carrying goods from Pakistan to Turkey via Iran rolled into the Turkish capital Ankara earlier this year.

The ITI cargo train started its journey from Islamabad on Dec. 21, 2021, and arrived in Ankara after 13 days. Turkey's Transport and Infrastructure Minister Adil Karaismailoglu, Pakistani parliamentarian, Makhdoom Zain Hussain Qureshi, and Iranian Ambassador to Turkey Mohammad Farazmand attended a ceremony to mark the arrival of the train, Daily Sabah reported.

Departing from Margalla Station in Islamabad, the train embarked on its 5,981-kilometer (3,666-mile) route, arriving in 12 days and 21 hours. The cargo train aims to boost trade among Pakistan, Iran and Turkey. The train had eight loaded wagons, 20 feet (6 meters) in length, each with a capacity of 22 tons.

Karaismailoglu in his speech said the new railroad will offer another option to industrialists and businesspeople on the Pakistan-Iran-Turkey route.

"It will save time and cost compared to sea transportation between Pakistan and Turkey, which takes 35 days, and will lead to the development of trade between the two countries," he said.

"With the Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul train, a new railroad corridor will be provided to our exporters in South Asia, which has the highest population density globally, reaching Pakistan, neighboring India, China, Afghanistan and Iran. In this way, our country will be one step closer to its goals of becoming a bridge and logistics base between Asia and Europe," Karaismailoglu added.

Speaking at the ceremony, Qureshi noted that the ITI train would play an important role in enhancing regional connectivity and promoting economic and commercial activities in the ECO region. 

Iran, Pakistan and Turkey established the Regional Cooperation for Development Organization in 1964, renaming it ECO in 1985.

The parliamentarian noted that the train would offer Pakistan an opportunity to further increase its exports and strengthen its connectivity with international markets, including in Europe.

"The current government in Pakistan believes in regional connectivity and we feel that to play a role at the national stage, we need to be economically reliable. In order to do that, we need to not only have peace in our region but also increase trade within our neighborhood and the ITI project will become a friendship project," Qureshi told Anadolu Agency in an interview.

"We get access to the European markets and Turkey gets access to Central Asian states so it is a mutually beneficial arrangement and I hope it will be sustainable and we can grow from it further.”

Farazmand in his speech explained that the ITI railroad project was first launched in 2009 under ECO, but remained suspended due to technical issues, restarting a decade later.

“The three countries also plan to launch a passenger train along the same route in the near future,” he said.

The first train from Islamabad to Istanbul was inaugurated on Aug. 14, 2009. Since then, eight trains have been dispatched from Pakistan to Turkey. The country has also dispatched six trains to Pakistan, but the train service was discontinued due to floods in the South Asian nation in 2009.

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