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Jonathan becomes first Christian D8 leader

Jonathan becomes first Christian D8 leader

ABUJA—PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan has emerged as the first Christian to assume the chairmanship position of D-8, a group of developing countries with predominant Islamic orientations. (Photo: President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice President Namadi Sambo in a group photograph with Governors of Central Banks from D8 countries during their visit to state house, Abuja Tuesday.)

Nigeria, a secular state, will for two years, preside over affairs of the organization which the outgoing chairman and Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, described as a purely Islamic organization.

The Malaysian leader said at the opening session: “The D-8 was established to prove to the world that Islamic nations are capable of enhancing economic cooperation among member state”, noting that the decision to keep it small was to facilitate and expedite the decision making process among member countries.

President Jonathan who urged member states of the D-8, which comprised Nigeria, Malaysia, Egypt, Iran, Turkey, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Pakistan, to promote partnership and development among member nations, stressed that the summit should remain focused on using the instrumentality of trade as a driver of economic growth and development.

He said his vision within the period would be to ensure that the summit focused on practical and achievable means of enhancing private sector participation in the activities of the summit, noting that while the government remained as a catalyst and enabler of economic growth, the private sector should remain the primary driver of the process.

Jonathan said Nigeria hoped to drive the initiative approach to development and encourage private sector-led cooperation in priority projects in such areas as energy, civil aviation and infrastructure development.

He pointed out that the resuscitation of the D-8 shipping business forum meetings would be the right step in this direction, adding that Nigeria would be pleased to host such a workshop if a window could be found for it in the D-8 calendar of events.

The president also said he had commenced the move to fast track the ratification of the Preferential Trade Agreement, PTA, Custom Cooperation Agreement and Visa Regulatory Regime as agreed by the summit in its 12th session of the council in Kuala Lumpur, adding that he expected the process to be completed very soon.

Jonathan calls for joint investment fund

While stressing the need for D-8  to adopt its own charter, which would create rights and obligations; and also define our organistaion’s relationship with other multilateral organizations to which we may belong, President Jonathan said he welcomed the proposal for the establishment of D-8 joint investment fund, “as a vehicle for expanding the scope, volume and value of trade and investment among our countries.”

President Jonathan who described climate change and globalization as the major challenges before the summit, also pointed to renewable energy as a solution to the question on how to address the problem of climate change.

He said: “I would like to see us take forward the proposals of this meeting as the building blocks of deeper cooperation in the area of alternative and renewable energy, particularly in research and development and capacity building.”

The Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, in his handover address, pledged his country’s support for Nigeria’s leadership. He described the lack of participation of private sector in the process of things as unfortunate, noting that this was a vital missing link in the process of the summit.

Yassin said the summit had so far finalized and signed three agreements namely: “simplification of visa procedures for businessmen of the D-8 member states”, “preferential trade agreement amongst member states and multilateral agreement on administrative assistance in customs matter.”

He however noted that it is only that of simplification of visa procedures for the businessmen that has been ratified by two member states, Malaysia and Iran.

D-8 seeks robust South-South cooperation

Meantime, member countries of the group of D-8, yesterday, ended their seventh summit in Abuja with a declaration to boost a viable South-South cooperation and enhance greater economic growth and globalization.

In a communiqué code named “The 2010 Abuja Declaration”, which was read to newsmen by the new Secretary General of the D-8, Mr. Widi Praktito, the group said an enhanced South-South cooperation would further boost trade investments among member countries.

The communique stated: “We agreed that in an increasingly globalized world, the D-8 model of cooperation provides a viable form of South-South cooperation. We, therefore, resolve to broaden and strengthen this cooperation in order to develop our economies and also empower our countries to participate more actively in the process of globalisation.

“The Abuja Summit which recognized the role of governments as catalysts and enablers of economies growth the secretary general also agreed that D-8 cooperation must essentially be private-sector driven. Accordingly, we reaffirm the importance of intense private sector involvement in all activities of the group.

“We instructed the commission further to explore ways of promoting private sector-led cooperation and growth among the D-8 member countries.

“Intra D-8 investments are essential for deepening the economic relationship among the member states. While recognizing that the present intra D-8 investments are far below the potential of the member countries, we therefore, reaffirm our resolve to take immediate measures to encourage, facilitate and promote foreign direct investment, FDI, in the priority areas.

“Consequently, the D-8 countries directed the D-8 commission to explore ways and means to establish a D-8 investment fund and identify investment opportunities in the member countries, including the proposal by the Islamic Republic of Iran to establish the D-8 Joint Investment Fund, JIF.

“We believe that free and fair trade is beneficial for the global economy. We also believe that access to markets of major economies of the world is essential for poverty alleviation and economic development. We would, therefore, like to see a meaningful and fair conclusion of the negotiations of the Doha development agenda of the World Trade Organisation,WTO.

“We invite member countries to expedite ratification and operationalization of the D-8 preferential trade agreement, PTA, and the multilateral agreement among D-8 member countries on administrative assistance in customs matters.

We urge those countries which have not yet ratified these agreements to do so.
“We endorse the report of 12th and 13th sessions of D-8 council of ministers and welcome the prioritization of activities of the D-8 roadmap in the areas of trade, agriculture and food security, industrial cooperation and small and medium scale enterprises, SMEs, transportation, and energy and minerals.

We request the commission to benchmark these priority elements into action plans.”

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