ABUJA Eight developing Islamic economies including Nigeria, Iran and Pakistan aim to reach a preferential trade agreement by next year to try to double trade and deepen economic cooperation, government officials said on Thursday.
Heads of state and ministers from the Developing Eight Countries (D8) -- Iran, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Turkey -- are meeting in Nigeria to discuss developing business ties and reducing trade barriers.
"While the role of government as a catalyst and enabler of economic growth remains pivotal, the primary driver of this process must be the private sector," Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan told the summit in the capital Abuja.
Trade between the member nations of the D8, which was created in 1997 to try to foster economic cooperation between developing Islamic nations, is estimated at around $68 billiona year, or about 3 percent of global trade.
Delegates said the grouping had failed to meet its potential because only Iran and Malaysia had ratified a trade agreement, the outlines of which were agreed several years ago. Other nations disagreed on which goods would be subject to reduced tariffs.
"The trade statistics among D8 countries may appear positive but this success may be mainly due to existing bilateral trade initiatives rather than ... the cooperation of the D8 as an organisation," Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said.
The main traded goods within the bloc include petroleum products from Nigeria, petrochemicals and edible oils from Malaysia, consumer goods, cars and basic raw materials such as rubber.
"The aim is to double trade in the next five years," Abdul Qadir Memon, Pakistan's deputy secretary at the commerce ministry, said on the sidelines of the meeting, attended by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Turkish President Abdullah Gul.
"The most important step is the preferential trade agreement which we are aiming to operationalise by Jan 1, 2011, that is the target date ... We thought that by 2006 we would have been able to implement the agreement but unfortunately there have been delays," he said.
(For more news on Reuters India, click in.reuters.com)