by Chen Ming
ISTANBUL, Nov. 9 (Xinhua) -- Leaders from Islamic countries met here on Monday to show their political will to enhance economic and commercial cooperation amid the global financial meltdown.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul chaired the Economic Summit of the Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation (COMCEC) of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) at Istanbul's Four Seasons Hotel to mark the 25th anniversary of the committee.
Addressing the one-day summit, the Turkish president said he conveyed to the world the peaceful message inherent in the Islamic civilization and that the OIC's COMCEC is a landmark cooperation platform for all Islamic countries.
Other heads of state or government at the summit include Kyrgyzstan President Murmanbek Bakiev, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Guinea-Bissau President Raimundo Bacai Sanha, and Jordanian Prime Minister Nader al-Dahabi.
The economy of 57 Islamic countries was hit hard by the global financial and economic crisis, with the real GDP growth likely to drop to 1.2 percent this year against the impressive growth of 6.1 percent during the pre-crisis period from 2002 to 2006.
President Gul said, the COMCEC has successfully carried out its activities for the past 25 years and will maintain and further improve this attribute in the term ahead.
He said that the organization had taken the lead in launching many projects to realize the potential of the member countries, adding, "Establishment of the trade preferential system, trade financing, promotion of cooperation among private sector institutions and capacity building activities are some of these projects."
The Islamic countries are currently taking concerted action in dealing with climate change, food and financial crisis, he said.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai called for partnership among Muslim countries to exert joint efforts for economic development.
"The Muslim world has the necessary resources for economic development and our joint efforts should focus on growth in Muslim countries, which needs us to form a partnership among us," he said.
Karzai said the share of Muslim countries in the global economy was very low despite "our population of around 1.5 billion."
"Eight out of every 10 underdeveloped nations belong to the Muslim world," he said, adding that children in poor families in the Muslim countries have no access to education.
"A bright future lies ahead of us. The Muslim world has the necessary resources. We have strategic mines and fossil fuels. Joint effort should be used for the economic development of the Muslim countries," he said.
Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary general of the OIC, said at the meeting, "in the recent past, efforts have been directed towards expansion of intra-OIC trade through the elaboration of an agreement aimed at promoting preferential trade within OIC Member States."
"The Framework Agreement on the Trade Preferential System has since entered into force and rounds of trade negotiations have commenced. This is to be followed by the Protocol on tariff and para-tariff preferences, and the Rule of Origin," he added.
The combination of all these activities would pave the way for the attainment of the target set by OIC Heads of State and Government to raise intra-OIC trade figure to 20 percent by the year 2015, he said.
"Since the adoption of a series of trade facilitating and trade financing measures, the increase in volume of trade among OIC countries has become significant. We have now reached 16.60 percent going by the latest statistics," he said.
Trade financing, micro-finance, and infrastructure development are some of the programs that are being implemented by various economic agencies under the OIC.
Attention is now focusing on cross-border projects, which also bear the potentials of consolidating peace and harmony between inhabitants of border regions.
However, as the world faces enormous challenges in the aftermath of the global financial, food and energy crises, the review of the activities of COMCEC has now been undertaken in order to provide appropriate collective response to cushion the negative effects of these global crises on the peoples of the Islamic countries.
The COMCEC was established during the Third Islamic Summit Conference held in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in 1981. It became operational at the Fourth Islamic Summit in 1984 with the election of the president of Turkey as its chairman.
The committee aims at developing economic and commercial cooperation among the member states. The OIC has 57 member states and three observer members.