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SLAMIC CHAMBER OF COMMERCE. An organ of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Islamic Chamber of Commerce (ICC) is composed of federations, unions, and national chambers of commerce in forty-six countries, all members of the OIC. The ICC is comprised of a general assembly, an executive committee, a general secretariat, a president, and six vice presidencies representing the zonal distribution of the membership, with offices in Pakistan, Morocco, Senegal, Syria, Bangladesh, and Kuwait. The ICC is funded by contributions from member countries according to a formula based on per capita incomes. Proposed in 1976 at the meetings of the OIC in Istanbul, Turkey, the ICC was formally established in 1977, with headquarters to be in Karachi, Pakistan. The ICC serves to promote trade, industry, and agriculture throughout the Islamic world; preferential terms of trade for members; cooperation between Islamic nations in finance, banking, insurance, and communications; arbitration of industrial and commercial disputes; fairs and joint showrooms, exhibits, seminars, lectures, and publicity campaigns; and the eventual establishment of an Islamic economic community.

The activities of the ICC to date can be grouped in four categories: (i) building the physical and human infrastructures necessary for its operations, such as the headquarters in Karachi and a viable staff; (a) establishment of an institutional framework for the promotion of trade and commerce, such as fairs, exhibits, and the exchange of trade missions; (3) creation of committees and task forces to formulate designs and models and raise funds for joint industrial and manufacturing ventures in member countries; and (4) creation of the necessary organs to protect members against outsiders, such as the promotion and monitoring of the economic boycott against Israel and support of the Palestinian people and the Arab countries. The ICC thus only indirectly involves itself in business and commerce by disseminating information and facilitating contact among countries and trade organizations. An important organ of the ICC is its Information Bulletin, published quarterly in English and French to advertise fairs and exhibits; disseminate summaries of the proceedings of the general assembly and other official meetings; provide data on exports and imports of Islamic countries and Islamic companies (although the identity of the latter is not clearly defined); present occasional feature articles about member countries, the OIC, and the Islamic Development Fund; and publicize proposals for and news of joint ventures.

The ICC’s activities extend beyond its member countries. It occupies a consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations and the United Nations Industry and Development Organization. It cooperates with the United Nations Council on Trade and Development and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and it works more directly with institutions in the Islamic countries, both governmental and nongovernmental. Its contact with private institutions and businesses is particularly important, since one of the major obstacles facing the ICC has been the difficulty of persuading the private sector in member countries to cooperate with the public sector. Apparently the private sector is adequately served by national and local chambers of commerce and believes that any assistance or cooperation with the public sector could be confining and limiting to business activities. Furthermore, business enterprises in member countries are little prepared to identify with a confessional doctrine, such as Islam or Christianity, and the ICC is identified is an organ of the OIC. Ironically, most OIC members consider themselves secular and not bound by any religious or confessional policy restrictions. Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Nigeria, Indonesia, Tunisia, Iraq, and Algeria, for example, are members of both the OIC and the ICC, but all of them consider themselves secular states and willingly conduct most of their economic transactions with non-Islamic countries. Their own chambers of commerce are guided by business and national interests, not by religion. Where it applies, shari`ah (the divine law) relates only to personal status, while trade and commerce relations are extended to all countries, with the possible exception of Israel. Another complication is that the ICC encourages preferential treatment for contractors from member countries, which is not always consistent with the basics of private business, economic efficiency, and profit making. Still another restrictive factor is the implicit political orientation of the ICC. Its strong stand against Israel, overt support of the Palestinian Intifadah, and intent to prematurely promote an Islamic economic community might have limited its achievement.

Most of the accomplishments of the ICC to date have centered around meetings of its organs, the creation of committees and production of reports, and the construction of its headquarters. A few other tangible results include the establishment of a tomato-paste-processing joint venture in Cameroon, an oil storage and distribution venture in Mali, and the Tidekelt salt project in Niger; in the meantime the ICC has received more than seventy proposals for joint ventures. The limiting political character of the ICC is also indicated by the fact that it was created by foreign ministers of the OIC, funded by OIC governments, and is only indirectly influenced by business people. It is ironic, however, that in spite of its identification as Islamic, the ICC has no clear Islamic rules or regulations, economic principles, or philosophies and doctrines governing trade and commerce of the member countries. The ICC apparently takes member-country commitment to Islamic principles for granted, which obviously is not so.

To a certain extent, the functions of the ICC overlap with those of the national and local chambers of commerce, and more so with the international chambers in the member countries. The most obvious difference between the ICC and these other chambers is that the ICC is an organ of the OIC and plays a major political role among the members and in the international community. Except for the ICC’s objective of persuading the private sector to cooperate with the public sector, it would have been just as appropriate to call it simply the political-economy committee of OIC. Indeed, such a description would be fully representative of its economic functions, political orientation, and heritage as an organ of the OIC.

[See also Organization of the Islamic Conference.]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

In addition to the following specific items, I have depended heavily on correspondence with and documents received from the national chambers of Algeria, Turkey, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and from the International Chamber of Malaysia, as well as from the National US-Arab Chamber and the US-Arab Chamber (Pacific), Inc. I am grateful to all of them for their kind responses to my inquiries. Ahsan, `Abdullah al-. OIC: The Organization of the Islamic Conference. Herndon, Va., 1988.

Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry. International Bulletin, series 1981-1991. Particularly important for the summary of proceedings of the General Assembly.

Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Tasks and Achievements. Karachi, n.d.

ELIAs H. TUMA

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/islamic-chamber-commerce/
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  • writerPosted On: June 21, 2014
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