The Economic situation of developing countries has continued to deteriorate, particularly in the field of trade where imports of most developing countries are still affected by the debt burden and by the absence of other sources of financing. In 1989 imports of members of the Group increased by only 6% a figure which is far inferior to that of 14.7 recorded in 1988. According to statistics available, all developing countries were affected except those of the South-East Asia Sub-Region where an 8.3% growth was recorded. However, according to UNCTAD, even South East Asia recorded figures which were far below those of the preceding years. During the same year, an important drop was recorded in the growth rate of exports from developing countries which fell from 13.5% in the past years to 6% in 1989. This decrease affected not only manufactured goods but also raw material. The prices of commodities equally dropped in comparison to 1988 and this had a decisive influence on the fall of prices of exportable items. The ensuing decade of the 90s did nothing to reverse these trends.
The above results do argue well for the importance of self-reliant development in order to achieve rapid economic and social transformation, based on resources and experiences of members of the Group. It is to this end that the Group of 77 carried out an assessment of efforts already made in the area of economic and technical cooperation among developing countries and in 1981 established the Caracas Plan of Action, aimed at redefining the priorities of South-South cooperation. From that moment, though the progress achieved may be slow, it should be admitted that much had been done in certain concrete areas, in particular in the field of promoting cooperation. One of the factors which has influenced this progress is without doubt the participation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry in activities relating to cooperation in trade, in their new capacity as an important element of international cooperation among developing countries. This was in conformity with the definitions of the high level meeting in Cairo in 1986 which specially stressed the need to hold meetings of Chambers of Commerce to structure activities of economic and technical cooperation among developing countries. A new impetus had been given to the promotion of economic growth and development within the members of the Group. This proposal was later welcomed by the 6th Inter Governmental Committee meeting on follow-up and coordination of economic cooperation among developing countries in Havana, Cuba 1987.
The developing countries of the world officially recognized under the umbrella of the United Nations (UN) framework as Group of 77 initiated the conference of Chambers of Commerce & Industry of member countries (G-77 CCI) to promote economic & technical cooperation and to enhance South-South trade. It derives its importance among developing countries, in which the business sector of developing countries was requested to participate in the activities of economic cooperation.
Since the inception of Conference of G-77 CCIs in 1986, the representatives of the Chambers of Commerce & industry have met seven times in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) in 1987, New Delhi (India) in 1988, Harare (Zimbabwe) in 1989, Havana (Cuba) in 1980, Jakarta (Indonesia) in 1991-92, Yaounde (Cameroon) in 1993 and Lahore (Pakistan) 1995. These conferences constituted the first step towards the establishment of a mechanism for cooperation among the Chambers of Commerce & Industry as well as to progress towards harmonization of commercial interaction among the developing countries. Wide-ranging discussions on the priority areas involved in the establishment of a global trade information network, South-South trade, the transfer of technology investment and Cooperation amongst Chambers of Commerce & Industry, formation of G-77 Development Bank, G-77 Insurance Company, setting up of G-77 International Exhibition Authorities and G-77 CCI Headquarter were undertaken. However, the highest priority was given to establishment of the Global Trade Information Network among the member Chambers to improve the system of exchanging trade and business information.
The second meeting at New Delhi and the Steering Committee which met at the close of the second meeting, decided that, the regional meetings for the G-77 CCI Trade Information Network be held in each region namely Africa, Asia and Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean.
These meetings were to decide the regional focal points and to elect the regional Expert Consultant who would play the pivotal role in the future Trade Information Network. The regional meetings took place in Yaounde, Cameroon from 20th to 22nd February, 1989, the meetings of Asia and Arab Chambers representative took place in Karachi, Pakistan from 27th to 29th March, 1989 and the meetings of Latin America in Columbia from 10th to 18th April, 1989. These meetings agreed on the three regional focal points namely, Bogota, Colombia; Karachi, Pakistan and Yaounde, Cameroon. Mr. Aamar Gulzar Qureshi, a Pakistani was elected as the Regional Expert for the Asia and the Pacific region; Dr. William Tiga Tita, Cameroon, the Regional Expert for Africa; and Mr. Ramirez, Colombia, the Regional Expert for Latin America and Caribbean.
In 1989 these regional experts met in Geneva, Switzerland on the invitation of International Trade Centre (ITC); in Hamburg, Germany; Bogota, Colombia and Karachi to formalize the "Master Plan" for the establishment of the "Trade Information Network". These meetings were made possible with the support of Special Unit of TCDC (SU-TCDC) of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). This Master Plan was presented at the fourth meeting of the representatives of the Chambers of Commerce of G-77 at Havana, Cuba in November, 1990 and was approved with unanimous vote. The approval was given to an execution plan which entailed raising of funds amounting to US$ 3.6 million; i.e. US$ 1.2 million per regional focal point, besides other in-kind contributions.
The Steering Committee charged the committee of experts with the responsibility of exploring various avenues of raising the required funds. The Committee of Experts met in New York with the prospective international donor agencies under the aegis of SU-TCDC. Altogether, the Committee succeeded initially in raising US$ 240,000; in cash ($150,000) and equipment ($90,000). With these modest beginnings the Trade Information Network project, under the leadership of the experts and more recently its Global Management Center, has evolved into a viable network of G-77 chambers, utilizing the information superhighway and enabling member chambers to become players in the global trade as well.
The Federation of Pakistan Chambers and Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), which hosts the permanent secretariat of the conference, has established a G-77 cell under the dynamic leadership of Mr. Tariq Sayeed, also the current Chairman of the Steering Committee of the G-77 CCIs.
The cell has published the "compendium on G-77 countries and China" and it is now in its fourth edition. Copies can be ordered directly from the FPCCI.
Other projects of the conference are being developed and should be launched shortly:
- G-77 International Exhibition and Fairs Authority
- G-77 Joint Venture Promotion Cell
- A Project on Landlocked Countries
- A Project on Shipping and,
The 8th conference will be held in Africa and will further pave the way for moving one step to achieve the ultimate goal of South-South cooperation thereby enhancing the lives of the people of the developing countries.