Arab and Turkish trade ties bear more potential

Arab and Turkish trade ties bear more potential

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Arab and Turkish trade ties bear more potential

The Turkish-Arab Industrial Cooperation Conference in Istanbul has gathered ministers from Arab League countries. Businessmen also carry on talks during the event. AA photo

Despite a recent acceleration in the last decade, trade and business ties between Turkey and Arab countries bear greater potential, according to the Turkish industry minister who said trade with Syria will improve when unrest settles.

“We should work to bring the [mutual trade] figure up to $100 billion in the next five years,” said Turkey’s Science, Industry and Technology Minister Nihat Ergün during his speech at the Turkish-Arab Industrialist Cooperation Conference in Istanbul.

Turkish-Arab trade volume has reached approximately $33 billion annually, Ergün said.

The improvement in relations between Turkey and Arab states was of great importance in terms of stability in the region, Ergün said, adding that parties may reach common regional goals thanks to stronger ties.

Countries in the Middle East, including Turkey, lost nearly $12 trillion due to chronic conflicts, clashes and wars in the region in the last 20 years, according to Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu, head of the Turkish Union of Chambers Commodities Exchanges (TOBB).

“If we could promote entrepreneurship in our countries, improve democracy, then the people shouting in Tahrir Square, Tunisia and Libya would calm down,” Hisarcıklıoğlu said during the Istanbul event. These great losses could rather be used in developing infrastructure, education and employment in Muslim countries, he said.

Turkey attracted nearly $7 billion in Arab investments between 2002 and 2010 and “this should not be considered enough,” said Hisarcıklıoğlu. “The investment by Arabs is still not at a desirable level yet.” The total number of Arab tourists visiting Turkey increased to 2 million last year from 348,000 in 2000, he said.

Turkey’s trade with Syria

Once the unrest in Syria settles, trade relations with the neighboring country will improve again, Ergün told journalists. “Commercial relations between Turkey and Syria might have slowed recently, but once the situation in Syria becomes stable, the trade relations would move forward,” Ergün said.

Turkey has recently experienced interruption in its trade and business bonds with Libya during the unrest, he said, and “now things are getting better.”

Ergün said the government was considering opening new border gates on Turkey’s Iraqi border and launching new sea routes to transport goods to the Middle East.

Despite the minister’s optimistic attitude, increasing tension in the region hinders problems for some energy projects. The Arab Natural Gas Pipeline Project would be kept out of the political tension in Syria and the preparations would continue, said Turkey’s Energy Minister Taner Yıldız in an interview yesterday.

“This is a project that would benefit the whole region. We may send natural gas to Syria and Lebanon through Turkey,” Yıldız said of the project involving Turkey, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. “Energy issues are not part of the sanctions against Syria.”

Businesswomen Council

Meanwhile, the Istanbul conference decided to establish a Turkish-Arab Businesswomen Council. Ergün said an agreement was to be signed in Istanbul at the end of January to officially launch the council.
A group of Turkish businesswomen are scheduled to travel to Kuwait on Feb. 25 to attend the first meeting of the council.