Ankara working closely with Beijing to expand ties: Turkish ambassador
Updated: 2015-11-13 10:20
By Wang Xu(chinadaily.com.cn)
In a wide-ranging interview, Turkish Ambassador to China Ali Murat Ersoy discusses growing bilateral ties, Belt and Silk Road Initiative, and terrorism with China Daily. Here are the excerpts:
1. Turkish President RecepTayyip Erdogan visited China this July, a trip that is believed to have improved ties between the two countries. What's your assessment of the current ties?
Our centuries old relationship has been developing steadily since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1971. In 2010 they were elevated to the level of "strategic cooperation". We have signed numerous agreements and established exchange mechanisms in several fields. We are working closely with our Chinese friends to expand the scope of our cooperation.
The visit of President Erdogan to Beijing in July 2015 constituted an important step to further strengthen the existing friendly relations with China and to elaborate on new fields of cooperation.
During the visit, an agreement concerning the reciprocal protection of investments was signed. A medium- and long-term plan for trade and economic relations was completed and both countries announced the establishment of a deputy prime ministers level mechanism. We do believe that these instruments will boost the bilateral relations and contribute to the improvement of mutual investments and trade.
On July 30, 2015, the Turkish-Chinese Business Forum was held in Beijing. Chinese President Xi Jinping honored the Business Forum and gave an important speech highlighting the achievements in bilateral economic relations, and encouraged Chinese businessmen to invest in Turkey. In his speech President Erdogan also encouraged businessmen of both countries to make the best use of existing and new legal instruments and underlined the importance of the Silk Road projects.
What are the major imports and exports between the two countries?
There has been a significant improvement in our trade and commercial relations within the past 10 years. Chinais Turkey's largest trade partner in the Far East and its third-largest in the world. The bilateral trade volume stands at around $28 billion. Yet, we have to work together to realize a more balanced trade structure. To this end, Turkey has been taking necessary measures to attract more investments from China and continues to encourage Turkish businessmen to evaluate the opportunities presented by the Chinese domestic market.
Turkey's main exports to China are raw materials, metals, ores, marble, leather and some agricultural products. We import intermediate and other industrial and consumer goods such as telecommunication devices, machinery and office equipment from China.
2. President Xi outlined key areas of cooperation between China and Turkey, including high-speed railways, new energy and finance, when he met with President Erdogan. How do you feel about these proposals? And how China and Turkey could cooperate with each other on these proposals and in other areas like the Belt and Road Initiative? How will the Belt and Road Initiative benefit Turkey?
From 2003 to 2014, Turkey's average economic growth rate reached 5 percent and its GDP stood at $800 billion in 2014, ranking seventh in Europe and 18th in the world, with a per capita national income of $10,500. Over the past decade, Turkey has attracted $12.4 billion on average in FDI every year. Turkey has become an attractive location for foreign investments.
Strengthening successful export policies and promoting exports from Turkey to China are among our priorities.
We also highly value our investment cooperation with China. Turkey is a country enjoying rapid economic development. It has a young population, qualified human resources, an ideal geographic location, an open and innovative investment environment, a well-developed infrastructure network, competitive/preferential tax and incentive policies, a booming domestic market and the advantages of being part of the European Customs Union.
Turkey welcomes investors from China for projects in areas like infrastructure, port, airport, channel, railway, subway, energy, automobile, mechanical industry, banking and telecommunications.
We have a strong public finance and banking sector, which enabled Turkey to be minimally affected by the global economic crisis. Turkey and China have been among the relatively less affected countries. There is great potential for cooperation in the finance sector, and we welcome the new trend of China's major banks entering the Turkish banking industry.
In recent years, Turkish businessmen have become increasingly aware of China as a big market, an investment destination and also a central location regarding investments in surrounding countries. Our entrepreneurs, especially those with long-term investments, are enjoying preferential policies, which is part of China's opening-up endeavors to attract and encourage foreign investments. We are proud to see that Turkish investors achieved success in China on products such as generators, household appliances, auto parts, textiles and even realizing Turkish ownership and management in the shopping mall segment of the new economy.
We have already attracted more than a quarter million Chinese tourists this year. Turkey is a popular tourist destination. As of last year, it received 41 million tourists and ranks seventh in the world. We will be working to attract more tourists from China.
Both countries should also develop new projects such as establishing a Turkish-Chinese University as discussed by our presidents. Turkey welcomes and supports the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Maritime Silk Road initiatives proposed by President Xi. Straddling across Europe and Asia, Turkey is a critical part of the Silk Road with its unique location. It constitutes the key connection between the East and the West.
There is a range of major infrastructure projects currently underway in Turkey. These projects will also help restore the prosperity of the ancient Silk Road and can be integrated into the "One Belt One Road" initiative. The Marmaray tunnel connecting the continents of Asia and Europe under the Bosporus became operational in 2013. Edirne-Kars high-speed railway will provide the essential modern connection across Turkey. Another major project, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway, will be completed in the near future. Once it becomes operational, also using the Caspian link to Central Asia, it will constitute a formidable and additional railway connection between the East and the West, linking Europe, Caucasus, Central Asia and the Far East. We call this project: "The Middle Corridor". It will constitute a direct, high-speed and safe international rail connection from Beijing to London.
Another Turkish initiative is the "Caravanserai Project" which was introduced as a concept in 2008 to increase cooperation among customs authorities along the Silk Road. This project aims to facilitate trade and transport by accelerating border crossing procedures in Asia.
There are many other potential areas to tap. Why not create a Silk Road University Exchange Program or even a Silk Road University? Why not materialize a Silk Road Tourism project by renovating the old caravanserais along the route? The Turkish Ministry of Culture has thought about it years ago. There are many opportunities and potential projects to think on.
We also consider the initiative of China to establish the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which is expected to finance infrastructure investments, as a timely and necessary step. Turkey is among the founding members of the AIIB.
The lack of capital for the development of infrastructure is a major obstacle in Asia's social and economic development. Therefore, I believe that, the AIIB, as well as the Silk Road Fund will offer new possibilities in this respect.
All these projects, initiatives and more will lay the ground for better infrastructure, better connections, more trade, more people-to-people interactions between Turkey and China. Therefore, both our countries will benefit from "One Belt One Road".