Turkish economy discussed in French Senate

Turkish economy discussed in French Senate

With former French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s departure, the first signs that Turkish-French relations are getting back on track are coming from the economy.

French Foreign Trade Minister Nicole Bricq, who hosted Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan in Paris last November, is preparing to visit Turkey Jan. 15 to 16.

The French minister, who made her visit coincide with the “French Luxury Goods Festival” in Istanbul, is expected to visit boutiques such as Chanel, Hermes and Louis Vuitton in İstinye Park and Nişantaşı’s Abdi İpekçi Street.

The person who shared this information with me is Eric Fajole, Turkey representative of the French international business development agency, UbiFrance, who was able to formulate an extensive meeting in the French Senate on the Turkish economy.

Fajole seemed to have picked the fruit of his efforts when he organized the “Turkey – Europe’s fastest growing market” meeting for especially French SMEs, for them to be better aware of the opportunities Turkey is presenting.

Because, as far as I can see, yesterday, in the French Senate, more than 200 participants came to listen to Turkey.

Fajole had spent five years in Brazil before he came to Turkey. He said, “French SMEs know very well Brazil, Russia and China but somehow do not know Turkey.”

The biggest supporter of Fajole’s initiative in the French Senate was the head of the Turkish-French Trade Association Zeynep Necipoğlu. She is also the deputy president of the Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEİK) Turkish-French Business Council. Necipoğlu, in her speech in the Senate mentioned the issue of “not knowing Turkey well.”

She reminded the audience that Turkey’s GNP was equal to the total of Belgium and Switzerland, and three times more than the total of three North African countries (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia).

When she said, “Turkey’s not-so-positive image in France pushes aside the attractiveness of the market,” she drew the attention of French SMEs to big companies that have expanded their investments in Turkey recently. She suggests that SMEs follow in the footprints of these companies.

Actually, when you take a look at the picture, in 1985 the number of French companies was seven; now they are over 400.

Again, as Necipoğlu reminded, French companies that employ 100,000 people made an investment of nearly 1 billion euros in 2011.

The amount Aeroport de Paris has paid for 38 percent of TAV alone was 825 million euros. With the cosmetic firm Yves Rocher’s buying of 51 percent of Flormar, oil storage firm Rubis’ buying 50 percent of Delta Petrol and French informatics company Gemalto’s investments, the total amount reaches 1 billion euros.

As Turkey’s Paris ambassador, Tahsin Burcuoğlu, emphasized in the French Senate, the joint investments of France and Turkey on third countries have an increasing trend. Examples of this are the Limak-Lyon Airport Consortium’s winning bid for Prishtina Airport or the cooperation of Çalık-Alstom in Iraq.

In his speech, Burcuoğlu referred to the “new clean sheet” that Socialist President François Hollande and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have opened in relations after Sarkozy’s departure. He also mentioned Hollande’s Turkey visit.

To refresh our memories, Hollande met President Abdullah Gül during the NATO summit in Chicago and Erdoğan in Rio during the International Development Conference.

As a result, Hollande, if everything goes well, will visit both Ankara and Istanbul next spring. Alongside Necipoğlu and Burcuoğlu, the third speaker in the French Senate was the head of the investment agency, İlker Aycı, who gave powerful messages about the trade and economic cooperation between France and Turkey.