Press release

International Chamber of Commerce: opening doors to trade with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member countries

Prague, 18th and 19th September 2012: The fourth annual conference East-West Business Forum is being held today and tomorrow in the conference premises of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Prague. This is the first event of its kind in the Czech Republic, organized by the International Chamber of Commerce in the Czech Republic (ICC Czech Republic) in collaboration with the Embassies of the OIC member countries. It has also received auspices from: Petr Necas, Prime Minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Martin Kuba, Minister of Industry and Trade, and Premysl Sobotka, First Vice-President of the Senate.

Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is after the United Nations second largest international organization in the world, with its 57 member states representing about 1,5 billion people, and its goal is to represent interests of the Muslim world as a whole. This year's East-West Business Forum has opened new possibilities for further development of commercial, economic and financial cooperation between the Czech Republic and Islamic countries at the presence of government representatives in charge of international trade, representatives of major businesses, professional organizations, trade and investment agencies and other subjects in total number of 250 participants from 30 countries.

In the opening panel dealing with the mutual trade between the Czech Republic and OIC countries, Minister of Industry and Trade Martin Kuba emphasized the need to increase the volume of bilateral trade with countries outside the EU, which offer great opportunities for Czech companies. "Globalization and diversification of our foreign economic relations is crucial for the future of the Czech economy. Potential for expansion of mutual cooperation exists, our companies have a great interest in non-European countries and it is the challenge of us - representatives of state administration – to help them in their efforts as much as possible," said minister at the conference in his opening speech.

Among further speakers were Jiri Schneider, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Premysl Sobotka, First Vice-President of the Senate, Mehmet Metin Eker, Director General of COMCEC - Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Cihad Erginay, Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey and others.

Prof. Michal Mejstrik, Chairman of ICC Czech Republic, analyzed in detail Czech exports to OIC member countries and pointed out that among those countries, there is one special group with significant growth in GDP (not only coming from the oil production surpluses), which has already exceeded the level of 10 thousand USD per capita. Ten OIC member countries have ranked better than Czech Republic in competitiveness indicators, according to studies of the World Economic Forum. These countries stress especially on developing their educational potential, infrastructure, production of goods and services and might be of even more important destinations for Czech exports. Solidarity support of poorer countries within OIC enhances business relationships of Czech companies across all OIC member countries.

Prof. Mejstrik has also mentioned problems such as low diversification of Czech exports to the North African countries: "In countries like Mauritania, Mali, Nigeria, Chad and Sudan, Czech export is in the hands of only about five largest Czech exporters." In reference to the current export strategy of the Czech Republic for the period 2012 – 2020, at which ICC Czech Republic cooperated with the Ministry of Industry and Trade, prof. Mejstrik highlighted two major challenges: "emphasis on diversification and internationalization of Czech companies and more proactive and effective cooperation between institutions promoting export and international trade. Three from twelve priority countries for Czech export - Iraq, Kazakhstan and Turkey - are among the OIC member countries. Other OIC countries - Azerbaijan, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and the United Arab Emirates - are among the countries of interest from the perspective of export strategy."

Further part of the conference dealing with specific trade and investment opportunities in OIC countries in the energy, engineering, infrastructure and other areas of industry was opened by the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, Dr. Ing. Jaromir Drabek, who inter alia noticed: "Strengthening our export positions in new territories represents great opportunities for the development of the labor market and employment."

Tomorrow, on Wednesday, 19th September, the program of this year's East-West Business Forum will continue in the premises of ICC Czech Republic with concrete bilateral negotiations and discussions between Czech entrepreneurs and businesses from Turkey, Iraq, Malaysia and Iran.

Prague, 18th September 2012