Turkey calls for measures to encourage, facilitate trade among Islamic nations amid pandemic

President on Wednesday said Islamic countries should take active measures to prevent the coronavirus pandemic from harming foreign trade.

“In order to save foreign commerce from major devastation, we must take measures that encourage and facilitate trade,” Erdoğan told a virtual meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation (COMCEC).

“The steps we will take to boost trade among COMCEC member countries are important,” Erdoğan said.

He also urged member nations to mobilize resources to ease the impact of the pandemic.

“We must mobilize our resources to reduce the economic effects of the pandemic and ensure the continuity of production and demand,” Erdoğan added.

He urged COMCEC members to ramp up efforts for greater use of local currencies in trade.

“We [Islamic countries] should step up efforts to ease currency pressure on our economies, including the use of local currencies in trade,” he said.

Using local currencies with trade partners has been on Turkey’s agenda for some time and the country has long advocated for increased use of local currencies in international trade, instead of the dollar or euro, to alleviate foreign currency pressure.

On previous occasions, Erdoğan had warned Islamic countries to resist global crises and pressures, pointing out the importance of steps to remove the pressure of international exchange rates. He had stressed a participatory finance approach and said a gold-indexed step in currency would be the right move.

On efforts to coordinate standards for halal products, made in line with Islamic standards, Erdoğan said COMCEC members have been working on this for some time but were yet to achieve the level of coordination they want.

“As Islamic countries, the more we produce, the more we strengthen our economies,” he added.

“We should take steps towards value-added production and trade instead of export structures based on raw materials or semi-finished products,” the president said.

‘Participation to replace interest-based economy’

The future will see the world’s interest-based economic system replaced by participation based on risk-sharing, Erdoğan said.

“In this case, it is important to expand the use of products such as [Islamic] sukuk to finance large long-term infrastructure investments,” he added.

A sukuk is an Islamic financial certificate, similar to a bond in Western finance, which complies with Islamic jurisprudence, also known as fiqh.

COMCEC, which is headquartered in Turkey’s capital Ankara and chaired by Erdoğan, was established during the 3rd Islamic Summit Conference in 1981 and became operational in 1984.

With 57 members and five observers, COMCEC stands out as the international organization with the highest number of members after the U.N.

Serving as the main decisionmaking body at the ministerial level and seeking solutions to the development issues of Islamic countries, the platform has been meeting at the ministerial level annually since 1984 and realizing many important projects and programs to develop economic and commercial cooperation among member countries.

Erdoğan also praised efforts to put into action the OIC Trade Preferential System.

“The meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee, which we propose to be held at the beginning of 2021, will be a critical step for the system to take effect,” he noted.

The president also stressed that for the Istanbul Arbitration Center to complete its institutional structure, efforts should be accelerated regarding the formation of the necessary boards.

The project was proposed by Erdoğan during the 13th Islamic Summit. The center will be run under the auspicious of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB), in cooperation with the Islamic Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (ICCIA), and will serve as a platform where both commercial and investment-related disputes among OIC member countries can be resolved.

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