A demonstration area under construction in Qingdao, East China’s Shandong Province, is offering better prospects for cooperation between China and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

The demonstration area has great strategic significance and can improve trade between the SCO countries and intensify mutual trust and benefits, said SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov at the recently concluded SCO Qingdao Forum on Local Economic and Trade Cooperation.

“The economic potential of SCO countries has not yet been fully developed,” Norov said.

The SCO has eight member states, four observer states and six dialogue partners. Its member states, namely China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, account for about 20 percent of the global economy and 40 percent of its population.

China proposed setting up a demonstration area for local economic and trade cooperation between China and the SCO during the SCO Summit held in Qingdao in June 2018.

With a 61.1 square-kilometer core region located in Jiaozhou under Qingdao, the demonstration area has launched 13 domestic and international freight trains. More than 40 cooperation projects have been registered in this area, covering such industries as high-end equipment manufacturing, artificial intelligence and bio-medicine.

It is not only China’s big market that Sri Lanka values but also the potential business opportunities from other SCO countries, said Alexi Gunasekara, an official of the Sri Lankan Embassy in China.

As a dialogue partner of the SCO and a firm supporter of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Sri Lanka witnessed exports of $230 million to China last year.

Gunasekara said the BRI is highly consistent with Sri Lanka’s national development strategy, and Sri Lanka looks to better promote investment, free trade and cultural exchanges.

“In the year 2018, the trade volume between Qingdao and the SCO countries reached $5.5 billion,” said Meng Fanli, mayor of Qingdao.

“So far, the two-way investment has exceeded $1.9 billion, fully reflecting the vigor and vitality of SCO local economic and trade cooperation,” Meng said.

Sardorkhon Muratov, export manager of Alimkhan Company from Uzbekistan, said that besides fruit products, the company plans to export building materials to China as the relationship between the two is becoming closer.

Thilak Weerasinghe, chairman of LSR Travel Agency from Sri Lanka, said he experienced a delightful trip to Qingdao.

Besides introducing tourism products to China, he purchased hotel furnishings, wines and a solar power system from Chinese companies.

“I buy a lot of goods from China every year,” Weerasinghe said. “With all the goods and equipment, we will offer more qualified services for tourists from China and other countries.”