Turkish, Egyptian bosses aim to boost political ties

Turkish, Egyptian bosses aim to boost political ties

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish, Egyptian bosses aim to boost political ties

The signing of the free trade agreement boosted trade between Egypt and Turkey, with trade doubling every six months, an Egyptian official says. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

Turkish and Egyptian business people are working on ways to improve relations at the political level which deteriorated after the coup in Egypt, according to a prominent representative of the Egyptian economic community.

“We have excellent economic relations; we are looking at how we can use these relations for the reconciliation at the political level,” said Dr. Alaa Ezz, the secretary-general of Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce, told the Hürriyet Daily News Sept. 30.

Relations between the two countries deteriorated as a result of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s harsh criticism of the coup and the current administration appointed by the military.

The Egyptian business community conveyed the message to the Turkish business community to ask Prime Minister Erdoğan to tone down his comments on Egypt, according to Ezz, who is in Istanbul to participate in a meeting hosted by the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB) to explore the possibility of establishing a Middle East trade center.

The relative silence of the prime minister for the past two weeks on developments in Egypt seems not to have gone unnoticed as Ezz expressed satisfaction for the absence of comments, either negative or positive, by Erdoğan.

“We do not want politics to interfere in our economic relations,” said Ezz, adding that as the business community they convinced the Egyptian trade and industry minister to visit Turkish firms in Egypt, asking him to provide reassurances that economic relations would not be affected by strains at the political level.

Business as usual

“We can use our excellent economic relations to reinstate the political relations,” he said, adding that the current level of economic relations started in 2005, during the rule of Hosni Mubarak who was ousted two years ago. The signing of the free trade agreement boosted the trade between the two countries, with trade doubling every six months. The Turkish companies willing to increase their exports to the U.S. have moved to Egypt to benefit from qualifying industrial zones (quiz) in the country said Ezz, adding, “It took 40 days for Egyptian companies to trade with Central Asia and Eastern European countries; they moved to Turkey and now it is taking seven days. We were a hub for Turkey to enter Africa and the Middle East and we saw Turkey as a hub to the old silk road. It is a win-win situation.”“By entering Egypt, Turkey has access to 1.6 billion consumers with all the free trade agreement we have,” said Ezz. “We are partners in the true sense of the word. We lobbied together for instance in the Islamic commerce chamber.”

Ezz does not deny that the two countries’ economic circles did have to endure difficult times, especially following Prime Minister Erdoğan’s harsh criticism of Sheikh Al-Azhar. The Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce announced that it was freezing relations with the government. “But we underlined the fact that it was only with the government. We never suspended our relations with TOBB for instance,” said Ezz.