Despite crisis, Turkish, Greek businesses work to boost trade
In the worst hours of concern over the potential Greek default and “Grexit” last weekend, groups of prominent Turkish and Greek businessmen gathered on the Greek island of Rhodes to brainstorm ways to further boost their annual $5.5 billion trade.
The field trip was organized by the Office for Commercial and Economic Affairs of the Embassy of Greece in Ankara and the General Consulate of Greece in İzmir. The visiting delegation comprised of diplomats - mostly deputy heads of mission and economic counselors in Ankara and İzmir-- from 22 countries from the EU and the Americas.
The delegation also had over 20 prominent Turkish businessmen from a wide range of sectors including tourism, real estate, construction, energy, food and beverages, and health.
“All this is about creating multiple commercial synergies,” said Lambis Kounalakis, the head of the Greek commercial and economic affairs.
Greece’s consul general in İzmir, Theodore Tsakiris, said the field trip would doubtless help fulfill a common goal for further flourishing trade and investment opportunities in both Aegean neighbors. “This was a good first step for more profound business and investment cooperation,” he said.
Both Greek officials believe that government-initiated business-to-business meetings would reinforce the already existing solid trade bridge across the Aegean. For instance, they cited three previous workshops in Ankara and İzmir successfully boosted cooperation in tourism industry. This year over one million Turkish tourists are expected to visit Greece, a substantial rise from only 161,000 tourists in 2007.
They say other potentially prosperous fields for Turkish-Greek business are real estate and construction.
Some of the hosting participants at the Rhodes meeting included the governor for South Aegean region, George Hatzimarkos; the vice governor of South Aegean region, Giannis Flefaris; the vice governor responsible for tourism promotion, Marietta Papavasileiou; the deputy mayors of Rhodes, Lefteris Hatzioannou and Giannis Kakoulis; and the head of the Hotel Owners’ Association of the Dodecanese, Antonios Kampourakis.
The Turkish and Greek businessmen and investors held day-long business-to-business meetings on June 27.
Greek officials and businessmen insist that despite the punishing economic crisis in Greece, business cooperation presents important advantages to Turkish businessmen such as easy access to the EU market, a highly specialized labor force, low-cost human resources, solid infrastructure, rule of law, strategic geopolitical position, and common cultural features.
The Rhodes gathering came as a complementary event after Turkey and Greece had a joint business forum in İzmir last November which brought together Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci and his then Greek counterpart, Development Minister Nikos Dendias. That event was co-organized by Turkey’s Foreign Economic Relations Council (DEIK), the Greek Embassy in Ankara, and the Union of Hellenic Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
Before that, in 2013, the Greek Embassy in Ankara organized the “Business Fora” to promote investment opportunities mainly in tourism, renewable energy sources, construction and food and beverages. As part of the event, Ambassador Kyriakos Loukakis and Kounalakis brought together hundreds of businessmen in four Turkish cities: İzmir, Kayseri, Diyarbakır and Trabzon.
In the crisis year 2012, direct Greek capital outflows into Turkey accounted for a stunning 56 percent of all Greek direct investment abroad. That ratio was only one percent in 2008, just four years earlier.