Islamic Common Market Proposed
Agence France Presse
KUALA LUMPUR, 4 October 2005 - The first World Islamic Economic Forum yesterday called for the establishment of an Islamic common market and floated a series of initiatives to boost business cooperation amongst Muslim nations.
A declaration issued at the end of a three-day meeting listed the initiatives and urged the 57 governments of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to facilitate trade and business environments. Delegates called for governments to “consider the establishment of an Islamic Free Trade Agreement through regional and sub-regional FTAs in a step-by-step, time-bound process that would ultimately lead to an Islamic Common Market,” said the declaration.
Co-chairman of the forum, Musa Hitam, said a free trade accord signed by OIC member countries would be a “realistic” step toward achieving an Islamic common market, a long-held vision of the OIC. “That resolution reflects a recognition on the part of the business community of the difficulties, the patience, the care that needs to be paid attention to before we can realize this idea of free trade within the OIC community,” he told reporters.
The forum, which had debated poverty alleviation in Muslim countries, called for a private-sector sponsored World Islamic Economic Development Corporation to promote investment and infrastructure projects in OIC countries. It also floated plans for a global Islamic businesswomen’s network and an education trust to be funded by Muslim entrepreneurs emphasizing science and information technology arenas.
The forum pledged to “establish relevant task forces each led by a prominent Islamic business leader to develop specific practical implementation plans” for the initiatives.
Musa said Muslim business communities had to lead the way in boosting economic cooperation and that the taskforces would meet in six months in Pakistan to assess their progress. The declaration was delivered to Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, also the current chairman of the OIC.
Abdullah hailed the forum and urged delegates to step up efforts to promote investment and trade amongst OIC countries, rather than relying on rhetoric. “If we just talk and there is no implementation, nobody will take us seriously,” Abdullah said in a closing speech.
Calling for greater economic cooperation amongst OIC countries, Abdullah said intra-OIC trade made up a paltry six to seven percent of global trade, with many poorer nations left out of the loop. “Member countries often place a heavier emphasis on trade with industrialized, non-OIC countries. Of course, this has led to the poor performance of intra-OIC trade,” he said.