ISLAMABAD - Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry has welcomed the much-awaited agreement among D-8 countries for implementing the preferential trade agreement (PTA) from July 1, 2016.

ICCI President Atif Ikram Sheikh termed it a highly positive development as it would improve Pakistan’s trade prospects, give boost to trade among these countries and uplift living standards of their people, according to a press statement issued here.

Other business leaders said that D-8 countries have huge potential to enhance cooperation in many areas and promote intra-trade as they have a combined population of about 1 billion people with a combined national income of about $3.7 trillion. However, they said these countries were conducting only 7% of their total international trade among themselves which was not encouraging.

They said the volume of current trade among D-8 countries was around $120 billion and hoped that implementation of PTA would pave way for taking this figure up to $500 billion by the end of 2018, as pledged by these countries. They stressed that to achieve this target, it was necessary that D-8 countries should focus on facilitating their private sectors in developing stronger cooperation and forging closer business linkages as it will help businessmen in exploring untapped areas of collaborations.

They underscored the need of eliminating all barriers to trade and investment among D-8 countries in order to accelerate trade, investment and joint ventures activities.

They urged that trade promotion bodies of D-8 countries should ensure easy flow of information about available opportunities in different sectors of their economies and give private sectors leading role in harnessing such prospects.

They said that SMEs were engine of growth in developing countries and D-8 countries should focus on strengthening cooperation among their SMEs to capitalize on all potential areas of cooperation. They were of the view that increased trade among D-8 countries would strengthen the economies and bring prosperity to the people of these countries.