D-8 leaders vow to enhance trade among member states

By Md. Kamruzzaman

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) – Leaders of the D-8 member states have emphasized extending bilateral trade and investment to address the challenges in the post-pandemic era.

They expressed the commitment while addressing the 10th D-8 Summit on Thursday on the digital platform due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the summit's host and new chair of the bloc, emphasized the importance of improving connectivity among the D-8 member states to facilitate trade and investment and realize the potentials it offers.

"We need effective partnership and greater cooperation in the fields of technology and innovation to overcome the challenges," she added while addressing the summit.

She also urged the leaders of the developing eight countries to pressure Myanmar to "take back the Rohingyas," as her country is hosting around 1.2 million displaced Muslim refugees who fled a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar.

She emphasized that the Rohingya refugee crisis is an urgent issue for Dhaka as it is causing a severe impact on the country's environment, society and economy.

Earlier, Hasina also took over the chairmanship of the bloc from Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan delivered the opening statement as the outgoing chairman of the group and recalled the unique contribution to founding the Developing 8, or D-8, group by former Turkish Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, more than two decades ago.

– Pakistan urges to enhance intra D-8 trade

For his part, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan emphasized the optimum use of the region's vast youth resources for development and prosperity.

"We have 550 million youth population in D-8 countries. Our youth has not only the potential to optimize our opportunities but also overcome our common challenges," Khan said.

He added that among this vast youth population, there are entrepreneurs, business innovators, technology pioneers, educators, activists, artists, and journalists.

"We must create new opportunities for this predominant component of our population," he said, adding that harnessing technology, promoting innovation, investing in youth education, skills, and training, are urgent imperatives.

Khan said: "We must take concrete actions to achieve the target of expanding intra D-8 trade from currently around $100 billion to $ 500 billion by 2030."

He also emphasized measures like simplifying border procedures, enhancing institutional linkages, and operationalizing new initiatives to boost trade among the D-8 states. "We welcome ideas like the D-8 Payment Card, which would enable transactions in local currencies."

– Iran calls for free-trade zone

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, on occasion, urged the creating of a free-trade zone among the D-8 member states to strengthen trade and business.

"From the vantage point of convergence and business interaction, we are laying the foundations of free regional trade with neighboring countries, and we will soon establish, together with the Eurasian countries, the first free-trade zone," he underlined.

Rouhani went on to say: "Notwithstanding its geographical dispersion, the D-8 Organization enjoys tremendous capacities and bounties of, inter alia, human and natural resources, energy reserves, complementary economies, and avid private sectors," he said.

The Iranian leader also touched upon the increasing Islamophobia across the world. "The World of Islam has fallen quarry to organized Islamophobia. This organized Islamophobia has not only targeted the sublime values of Islam, but it has also brought with it wider adverse economic and developmental consequences for Muslim countries."

Criticizing the US sanctions on Iran, he said: "I am proud to announce that the US illegal and unilateral measures aimed to bring the great nation of Iran to its knees have failed and despite the strong headwind of colossal economic pressure, by relying on our own willpower and domestic might, we have managed to do great feats and make significant breakthroughs in various areas including the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts and consequences."

Rouhani called on the US to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal.

"The US must return to the JCPOA, first, by lifting the sanctions and adopting practical arrangements; for that is the obligation of the same government that has reneged on the promise. The Islamic Republic of Iran will but respond to the US action by positive action," he highlighted.

The D-8 Organization for Economic Cooperation, also known as the Developing-8 is consisted of eight developing Muslim-majority countries, including Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Turkey.