Exporters eye recovery in turmoil-hit regions
ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Passengers carried by Turkish Airlines arrive at the Libya’s Tripoli airport on Nov 8 only two days after the relaunch of flights there since the start of the civil war in the country. Turkish businesses, especially contractors, are looking for ways to return to their one-time top market following the process of normalization in the country. AFP photoTurkish exports to Syria, Libya, Bahrain and Yemen fell $1.17 billion in the first 10 months of the year, and now exporters are looking for ways to compensate for their losses amid increasing unpredictability in the Middle East and North Africa.
Turkey’s exports to Egypt and Tunisia, the first countries that faced the ongoing Arab Spring, have already recovered with a jump of $606.6 million liras during the January-October period, according to official figures.
“The turmoil has openly hit Turkish exporters selling products to Syria and Yemen,” said Sadık Yıldız, vice chairman of the Turkish-Syrian Business Council and chairman of the Turkish-Yemen Business Council at the Foreign Economic Board of Turkey (DEİK). According to him, exporters were projecting a nearly 30 percent rise in Turkey’s exports to Syria this year. “Unfortunately, the expectations have not come true”
Turkey’s exports to Syria fell $35 million in the first 10 months of this year. Still, the moderate decline “demonstrates the strong business bonds,” according to Yıldız. Turkey exported $1.46 billion worth of goods to Syria from January to October in 2010.
“Unpredictability harms Turkish exporters in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf countries,” Yıldız said.
According to Yıldız, mass protests calling for Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to resign in Yemen this year have also slowed the bilateral trade relations between the Middle Eastern country and Turkey. Turkey’s total exports to Yemen were worth $81 million in this first 10 months this year, down from $210 million last year.
“Turkey recovered well from the Egyptian revolution,” said Zuhal Mansfield, head of the Turkish-Egyptian Business Council at DEİK. “Turkey’s political approach to Egypt bared fruit in bilateral trade between both countries.”
Mansfield said Turkish business delegations have visited Egypt three times since September and established new bonds with Egyptian business leaders.
“We aim to increase the total volume of bilateral trade to $10 billion and Turkey’s investment in Egypt to $5 billion in three years’ time,” Mansfield said.
Libya still problematic
Turkish exporters experienced the largest contraction in Libya, which was once the major market for Turkish construction firms. Turkey’s exports to Libya tumbled by $1 billion in the first 10 months of this year. The total volume of Turkey’s exports slumped to $558 million in the first 10 months of this year, down from $1.58 billion in the same period of last year.
“Lack of authorities and legal structure enables Turkish businessmen to return the war stricken Libya,” said Ersin Takla, head of the Turkish-Libyan Business Council at DEİK, speaking to the Hürriyet Daily News during a recent phone interview, noting that interim government officials do not feel themselves to be legitimate authorities to approve or regulate international business deals.
Noting that Turkish businessmen were secure under the “shield of overthrown Moammar Gadhafi,” Libyan officials might also review construction contacts that Turkish companies had won, Takla said. “Moreover, Turkish businessmen also still wait for payments from Libya in return for completed projects by Turkish constructors, expected to be worth nearly $1.4 billion.”