Italy wants to reach Arab Spring nations via Turkey

Italy wants to reach Arab Spring nations via Turkey

Italy wants to reach Arab Spring nations via Turkey

TESK Vice Chairman Faik Yılmaz, Confartigianato Chairman Natalino Guerrini, MÜSİAD Vice Chairman Murat Kalsın, ICA Chairman Riccardo Monti, Turkish-Italian Business Council President Zeynep Bodur Okyay and Unicamere Vice Chairman Antonio Paoletti (left to right) listen to a speech during the Turkish Italian Business Forum in Istanbul. Courtesy of DEİK

Italian and Turkish firms can work together in business deals in the countries of Central Asia, the Balkans and the larger Middle East, top heads of business institutions from both countries said yesterday at the Italy-Turkey Economy Forum, which kicked off yesterday.

“Turkey does not just have significance in terms of accessing former Soviet republics. The strategic importance of Turkey has increased due to the Arab Spring. People say they take Turkey as an example in Tunis and Egypt. Balkans is another region where strategic cooperation is possible,” said Antonio Poaletti, the vice president of Union Camere (the Union of Italian Chambers), in his speech at the forum’s first meeting.

Some 160 Italian firms, 23 associations and at least 360 participants attended the forum, which will continue with business-to-business meetings today and tomorrow.

The event resembles the Turkish-British Business Forum held late April. Italian firms desire to export more and to tap into emerging markets just like their British counterparts, as they face a stagnant growth at home and in Europe.

There are about 5 million enterprises in Italy, but only a fraction of them export their products, Poaletti said. “Transforming them into exporters, will help the country get over current economic woes,” he said.

Looking into incentive plan

The Italian business mission to Turkey comes at a time when Italy is struggling against a recession and faces climbing unemployment. The employment rate hit 9.8 percent in April, the highest rate Italy has seen since 2004.

It also comes after a recently announced comprehensive incentive scheme in Turkey, which also aims to lure more foreign direct investments.

“We are looking into the new investment scheme and how strategic industries can take benefit of it,” said the Economic Development Undersecretary Massimo Vari, according to Anatolia news agency.

Bilateral trade volume between Turkey and Italy hit $21 billion last year. Italy is the fourth largest trade partner of Turkey.

“Turkic countries, Russia, Kazakhstan, the Middle Eastern and North African countries are in the right addresses to collaborate,” said Zeynep Bodur Okyay, the head of the Turkish-Italian Business Council.

As for possible new collaboration areas, she pointed at the construction sector, as Turkey will rebuild an estimated 7 million residences in 20 years, and to the tourism sector. Turkey aims to hit 950,000 bed capacity in the 2013, she said. Other lucrative cooperation fields are energy and defense industries, she said.

Murat Kalsın, the vice president of the Independent Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (MÜSİAD), said it was important to act in unison in the Middle Eastern and Gulf countries. “MÜSİAD is an unbounded source for Italian firms to cooperate. We can collaborate in third countries,” he said.

This is the first time the ConfIndustira, the Italian employers’ federation, has met with the MÜSİAD, said Emma Marcegaglia, the head of the federation.

Italian firms that participated in the business mission are mainly working in form machinery, energy and infrastructure sectors, she said.

Direct investment plans

All the same, Marcegaglia, who is also the managing director of the Company Marcegaglia, mulls investment in Turkey as well, she told the Daily News on the sideline of the forum.
The company is active mainly in the steel sector and has an annual turnover of 4.5 billion euros.

“We are looking at an investment in the white goods sector. We produce condenser and some tubes for white goods,” she said.

“We are thinking about establishing a plant in Turkey. No decision has been taken yet.”

The initial investment may be between 20-30 million euros, she said.

“We start with one product. We try to understand the market. Then we establish a bigger plant with all our production.”