Türkiye’s Ambassador to T&T, Bengü Yiğitgüden, has invited T&T’s business sector to build commercial ties with Türkiye, one of the world’s largest economies by Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“I hope very much that this webinar brings business people from T&T and Türkiye closer. Türkiye is a member of the G-20, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and other fora and has a liberal economic model. Türkiye’s and T&T’s diplomatic relations date back to 1972 and last year we celebrated our 50th year. There are no agreements yet related to the economy or trade. The only agreement T&T and Türkiye have is about visas. Citizens of both countries can visit each other without a visa and stay up to 90 days. ”
Yiğitgüden spoke last Wednesday at a webinar hosted by the T&T Coalition of Services Industries (TTCSI) on “Doing Business with the World Series” where Türkiye’s business sector was highlighted.
Venezuelan Ambassador to T&T, Álvaro Sánchez Cordero who spoke during the question-and-answer segment of the webinar pointed out that travel for business people between Türkiye and T&T should be much easier now as Türkiye and Venezuela have direct flights and Caribbean Airlines (CAL) just established direct flights between Piarco and Caracas.
This means a businessperson or someone travelling for leisure can travel to Caracas and then take another flight to Türkiye.
Apart from her speech at the webinar, in a statement to the Business Guardian, Yiğitgüden spoke about the positive aspects of Türkiye’s economy and also the challenges.
Among the country’s challenges is its high rate of inflation. In 2022, the country’s inflation rate hit 85 percent, which was among the highest rate among developed countries last year. For 2023, the Turkish Central Bank has forcast an inflation rate of 22.3 per cent.
“In recent years the whole world, including developed countries, is suffering from the problem of high inflation.
Both the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war have disrupted the supply chain, created supply-side problems and increased energy and input costs. Production and job losses and health problems caused by the pandemic had additional pressure on budgets.
The Government is using effective fiscal and monetary policies to lower inflation. Furthermore, salaries are increased to enable households to cope with rising prices. According to the Statistical Office in recent months there has been progress in lowering prices. Surely these efforts will to continue to take the inflation under control,” she said.
Speaking about the positive aspects of the Turkish economy, the ambassador said: “Türkiye is an important centre of attraction for international investors with its large production potential, advanced logistics infrastructure, comprehensive incentive programmes, and a well-developed banking sector. Strong market fundamentals, such as a young and dynamic population, a well-educated workforce have all helped transform Türkiye into one of the fastest growing economies in the world.”
She described how Türkiye became one of the world’s largest economies.
“The Turkish economy developed steadily after the 1980s. Türkiye became a member of G20. A solid macroeconomic strategy, prudent fiscal policies, and major structural reforms have all contributed to the integration of Türkiye’s economy into the globalised world while also transforming the country into one of the major recipients of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in its region. The made reforms have increased the role of the private sector in the economy, enhanced the efficiency and resiliency of the financial sector, and placed public finance on a more solid foundation.”
She also presented some of the country’s strong macroeconomic statistics.
“The reforms also strengthened the macroeconomic fundamentals of the country, allowing the economy to grow annual real GDP. During 2003-2022 period, the average annual growth rate was 5.4 per cent. In 2022, the economy expanded by 5.6 per cent.”
She added that the Turkish private sector already has a presence in the Caribbean and is looking for opportunities in T&T as well as the rest of the region.
“I know that Turkish businessmen are interested in feasible projects in T&T as well. As an example, I can mention a Turkish energy company that has recently participated in a bid of the T&T Government.”
She listed different areas that can be invested in:
“T&T has ongoing infrastructure projects, including road construction, airport expansion, and housing developments. Our companies could explore opportunities to participate in these projects and contribute with their expertise. T&T has a developing manufacturing sector, particularly in areas such as chemicals, plastics and food processing. Turkish investors could consider establishing manufacturing facilities or partnering with local companies in these and other sectors. Agro-processing or agricultural technologies could also be an area of cooperation.”
She also praised T&T business associations for being far-sighted and wanting to explore new opportunities in countries like Türkiye
“What Türkiye, the Caribbean and T&T have to offer in services and goods has to be promoted. This would surely attract more investments to/from Türkiye and other countries. In this context, I am very pleased with the initiative of the TTCSI to start the ‘Doing Business with the World Series.’ Including Türkiye in this initiative allowed us to give information about the business circles of our country and its economy. Once we have more information about each other, trade and investments will surely increase.”
President of the TTCSI, Mark Edghill who also spoke at the webinar said that trade ties between the countries are strong and must continue to grow.
According to trade data he gave, in 2019, bilateral trade between the two countries was at US$120.8 million. In that year, Türkiye’s exports to T&T were valued at US$68.4 million, while that country had imported some US$52.4 million worth of goods and services from T&T.
He added that during 2021, according to the United Nations Comtrade database on international trade, T&T’s imports from Türkiye stood at US$89.92 million.
Among the items imported were iron and steel, at almost US$62 million; with just under US$4 million in electrical and electronic equipment and US $4.31 million in salt, sulphur, earth, stone, plaster, lime and cement.
Using, additional data from Comtrade, he highlighted that T&T’s exports to Türkiye in 2021 stood at US $3.12 million. The bulk of items exported were from the petrochemicals sector and included organic and inorganic chemicals, mineral fuels, oils and distillation products, among others.
“As you can discern from the figures I have shared with you, trade between our countries is beginning to pick up once more, now that we are seeing the light after the dark days of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, past data shows a focus on energy and manufacturing. Going into the future, we at TTCSI hope to see trade in services take their place right up there with those other sectors,” he said.
He also said as of 2023, Türkiye’s economy is the 19th largest in the world by nominal GDP.
“It is a trillion-dollar economy. Türkiye’s services sector constituted 37.9 per cent of total employment in 2021. Currently, its exports of goods and services as percentage of GDP are at 28.57 per cent, while its imports of goods and services as percentage of GDP are at 32.33 per cent. The value of both these markets runs into the trillions of US dollars.”
He listed logistics and transport, film and animation, tourism, health and energy as sectors that are booming and open to investment.
Free trade pact needed
Yiğitgüden added that the Turkish private sector already has a presence in the Caribbean and is looking for opportunities in T&T as well as the rest of the region.
Despite a local company taking the decision to stop importing Turkish cement in July 2021, she said business will continue between both countries.
“I do not have any figures, yet I know that Türkiye is still exporting cement to the region. As far as I know, the T&T Government and a company importing cement had some legal issues, which ended up at the Caribbean Court of Justice. The Government had also consulted the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) operating within Caricom. In the end, the tariff was increased to a very high level. This might have led the company to stop importing cement from Türkiye.
“In this context, I would like to mention that for a very long time now, Türkiye has been asking Caricom to make arrangements for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). This would have helped to avoid problems as mentioned above. Yet, unfortunately, we could not make any progress regarding an FTA.”
She added there are other areas that will benefit both countries.
“I know that Turkish businessmen are interested in feasible projects in T&T as well. As an example I can mention a Turkish energy company which has recently participated in a bid of the T&T Government.”