Multilateral trade regime under the umbrella of the World Trade Organization (WTO) lost its momentum due to non-compliance of developed countries and non-cooperation among the member states. International politics and disputes between the USA and China, LDC versus developed members and finally the voluntary nature of implementation ability could be the reason behind the time-consuming traits of the mechanism of WTO.
Regional trade blocks are also becoming weaker and inactive due to disputes among two or more countries. For example, the Saarc is in a paralysed condition due to rivalry of two powerful neighbours India and Pakistan. The US President Donald Trump neglected the spirit of NAFTA; Brexit hit EU spirit, similarly TPP died with the withdrawal of USA from the platform.
The OIC failed from the day one due to the presence of way too much politics and leading countries' abuse of the platform for their own benefit. Current crisis of the Muslim world with France may reorganise market mechanism between the Muslim countries with the west. The OIC is not in a position to play its role in this crisis period due to leadership weakness.
Therefore, the Muslim world should go for alternative arrangement other than the OIC. In such condition, the D-8 Organization for Economic Cooperation could be strengthened. It can enlarge its member base and make it effective as an alternative of OIC.
Just to recall, D-8, also known as Developing-8, is an organisation for development cooperation among eight Muslim countries- Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey. It was established on 15 June 1997.
The objectives of D-8 are to improve developing countries' positions in the world economy, diversify and create new opportunities in trade relations, enhance participation in decision-making at the international level, and provide better standard of living. Major areas of cooperation under this platform are agriculture and food security, industrial cooperation, trade, transport, energy and mineral and tourism etc.
If functional cooperation could be ensured in the field of agriculture and food security, the member countries could share their competitive advantages and ensure food security of all D-8 citizens. Industrial cooperation could lead us into trans-border investment and technology transfer for mutual benefits.
Trade cooperation should ensure free movement of goods and people among the member states. But trade performance among D-8 countries during last two decades has not been significant in comparison to their world trade volume. For example, export volume among D-8 in 2019 was $49,076 billion against their world export which was $761,447 billion in the same period.
Similarly, import volume among D-8 countries in 2019 was $50,183 billion against import from the world worth $843,985 billion. From both the figures it is clear that trade between the member countries is very much insignificant against their international trade.
Why D-8 trade is insignificant against their global trade volume? It could be due to their political misunderstanding among the member countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan, Egypt and Turkey etc. Or there could be economic reason behind this.
In case of political misunderstanding, professionals like us have nothing to do other than recommending political leaders to minimise the gaps based on mutual understanding as soon as possible. Let's see what economic reason could be there behind underperforming trade among the D-8 nations.
For example, Bangladesh and Pakistan have many common items in their top 10 export products. Other countries have only two or three common items as their export basket has mostly different items. Overall diversity is more prominent than the similarity in the export basket of D-8 countries.
The import items of Bangladesh and Pakistan are also almost similar. But there are huge varieties among the other member states. So, there is a trade potential among the D-8 countries.
Therefore, it could be said that D-8 countries have more trade supplementary product basket than that of the complementary items. It means if D-8 leaders can eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers, inter D-8 trade will be increased and thus Muslim countries could be partner in each other's development.
Not only in trade but D-8 countries could be development partners for each other through facilitating investment, technology transfer and transfer of military and non-military managerial know how through an appropriate mechanism under a comprehensive platform.
If international defense, trade and investment platforms like Nato, EU, Asean and AGUA etc can perform, why D-8 cannot be strengthened further into a comprehensive partnership platform by including defense, trade and investment aspects to be real partners of each other.
Number of member countries could be increased to make it practically functional and performing one. Thus, our political leaders can transform D-8 prospects into reality to ensure meaningful mutual partnership in near future.
The author is secretary of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry (DCCI)
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.