ISLAMABAD -  The Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) on Monday urged that D-8 countries should focus on developing strong cooperation among their SMEs to improve trade volume among member states.

ICCI President Sheikh Amir Waheed said that D-8 countries in the 2008 Kuala Lumpur Summit Roadmap had envisaged achieving a trade target of $500 billion by 2018, but the current trade was still far below the said target as the share of intra-D-8 trade decreased from 8.3 percent in 2012 to 6.7 percent in 2015. He said the two-day Aviation Chiefs’ Conference of D-8 group should focus on improving direct flights between member states that would contribute to improving trade volume.

He said the combined population of D-8 countries was around 60 percent of all Muslims and close to 13 percent of the whole world and they should strengthen mutual cooperation that would open new vistas for progress and prosperity. He said D-8 countries had signed various instruments and agreements including preferential trade, SMEs cooperation, customs, simplification of visa matters and civil aviation aimed at facilitating trade among member states and stressed that they should take strong measures for implementation of these agreements to achieve meaningful results.

Sheikh said that D-8 countries have huge potential to enhance cooperation in many areas and promote intra-trade as they have a combined national income in trillions of dollars. However, he said these countries were conducting less than 10 percent of their total international trade among themselves which was not encouraging.

He stressed that to improve the intra-group trade, D-8 countries should focus on facilitating private sectors in developing stronger cooperation and forging closer business linkages as it will help businessmen in exploring untapped areas of collaborations.

ICCI Senior Vice President Muhammad Naveed and Vice President Nisar Mirza emphasized for eliminating all barriers to trade and investment among D-8 countries in order to accelerate trade, investment and joint ventures among member states. They urged that trade promotion bodies of D-8 countries should ensure easy flow of information about available trade opportunities in different sectors of their economies and give private sectors leading role in harnessing such prospects.

They were of the view that increased trade among D-8 countries would strengthen the economies and bring progress and prosperity to the people of member countries.