Where does Turkey stand in the New Silk Road?

Where does Turkey stand in the New Silk Road?

The Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD) was one of the first pioneering institutions that started closely monitoring China. During the presidency of Arzuhan Doğan Yalçındağ in 2007, when TÜSİAD opened an office in Beijing, I remember there were opponents arguing this was not needed.

Not only did TÜSİAD open a representation office, it also launched a series of comprehensive conferences under the title “Understanding and Doing Business with China.”

The third of these conferences was held in Istanbul recently with the theme of “One Belt, One Road Project.” China’s project, known as the New Silk Road, aims to bind several countries in Asia, Europe and Africa through land and water routes. 

China started a major promotion drive for the project expected to affect two-thirds of the world’s population and one-third of the global production. 

The project was launched in March and I was able to speak to one of the most famous businesspersons in Asia, the group chairman of the Li & Fung group of companies, Dr. Victor Fung, in May in Istanbul.

Dr. Fung, who is the founder of the “Fung Business Intelligence Center,” which has contributed a great deal to the project, said the New Silk Road is a huge opportunity for Turkey because it is “the entrance to Europe.” 

The project consists of the Silk Road Economic Belt which follows the old Silk Road and the other water route, the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road.”

In the last TÜSİAD conference, TÜSİAD head Cansen Başaran-Symes said the One Belt, One Road Project was a giant initiative that would change the rules of the game in the global arena.

She said this giant project would revive the Chinese economy and bring global markets closer to each other. The project was very important for Turkey because the country was on the Silk Road route, she added.
Turkey was among the founding countries of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, she reminded. Turkey is the 11th biggest shareholder in this bank with a 2.6 percent share. 

The first signatures were inked last June in Beijing. The bank has a Silk Road Fund of $40 billion.

As the TÜSİAD head said, Turkish companies may participate in land and sea projects with the loan opportunities offered by the bank. 

What does Turkey need to do to be more active in the New Silk Road, which will offer it huge opportunities?
According to Mustafa Noyan Rona, the chief representative of Garanti Bank China, one of the speakers at the conference, we have not yet done our “homework” related to this project. 

Rona is a true Chinese expert who graduated from a Chinese university at the end of the 1980s and has been a diplomat since then, later to join the private sector. 

For the One belt, One Road Project, China has set up a special agency under the state presidency, Rona said, adding, “Turkey should also form such an agency so that it can conduct its work under one roof, one hand.”