London wants to be a partner of growth in Turkey's business sector, said Lord Mayor of London Charles Bowman.
In an interview with Anadolu Agency (AA) prior to visiting Turkey, Bowman said that was the main objective of his visit. He will arrive in Turkey Wednesday on a two-day official visit.
The U.K. and Turkey have strong trade relations and achieved a trade level of $20 billion in 2017, he said.
The bilateral trade volume between Turkey and the U.K. was $16.1 billion in 2017. While Turkey's exports to the U.K. were $9.6 billion, its imports from the country were $6.5 billion. Between January and August this year, Turkey's exports to the U.K. increased by 17.1 percent to $7 billion. The U.K. is Turkey's second-largest export destination after Germany.
As of December 2017, some 3,076 British companies, including British Petroleum (BP), Vodafone, Tesco and HSBC, operate in Turkey.
Over the past two years, the U.K. has focused on improving relations with Turkey, and last year it doubled its export finance program to Turkey to $4.6 billion.
Lord Mayor Bowman said he is excited about visiting Turkey and has five objectives during the visit. They include providing reassurance that in the context of Brexit, London and U.K. financial and professional services will remain preeminent, and enhance the strong ties between Turkey and the U.K. have built over a number of years.
Bowman said the other objectives are to develop, harness and leverage bilateral opportunities in trade, investment and business, innovation in financial and professional services and engaging with Turkish communities and businesses with relation to the Business of Trust – a program run by the lord mayor of London.
Underlining that as lord mayor, he is acting as the U.K.'s principal spokesperson for and on behalf of the U.K.'s financial and professional services, Bowman said those services employ 2.3 million people across the country.
"The sector is home to and houses 250 banks in London itself, more than any other international financial center. It [London] is a national, European and international jewel," he said.
And in that capacity, Bowman said he has visited 30 countries and is "very excited" about visiting Turkey this week.
Turkey and the U.K. have witnessed an increase in ministerial-level visits over the last few weeks. Following Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, who paid an official visit to the U.K., Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan was in London earlier this month on an official visit to boost commercial ties between the two countries.
During her London visit, Pekcan attended the U.K.-Turkey Joint Economic and Trade Committee (JETCO) meeting and the Turkey-U.K. Business Forum. He signed the sixth term JETCO memorandum of understanding (MoU) with U.K. Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox.
Turkish exporters want to claim a larger share of the U.K. market in the aftermath of Brexit, Trade Minister Pekcan had said in an evaluation of her trip. "We firmly confirmed mutual agreement on engaging in a comprehensive free trade agreement with Britain following Brexit. Under JETCO, the Turkish-British Working Group will accelerate its efforts," Pekcan had said.
In June 2016, the British public voted to leave the European Union, ending the country's 44-year membership of the bloc. Talks with the EU on the conditions of the divorce began in June 2017.
Recalling that there is a 20-billion-euro trade target between Turkey and the U.K., Pekcan had said they would like to move economic and commercial relations to a higher level.
During her time in London, Pekcan also inaugurated the Turkish Trade Center in London on Thursday. The Turkish Trade Center is expected to host 36 companies on informatics, design, construction and architecture.
Meanwhile, Minister Albayrak had met with representatives of financial institutions that manage assets worth $15 trillion in London. He narrated Turkey's 15-year success story and future policies that will be implemented within the frame of a stronger strategy. Elaborating on his contacts in the country, Albayrak said on his social media account that in addition to discussing "our bilateral cooperation, we discussed the steps that could be taken to increase our trade volume after Brexit."
Bowman also said he is visiting Istanbul as the head of a business delegation, adding the bilateral trade target between the two countries has been set at $20 billion.
"We have a strong relationship with Turkey built over a number of years. And this visit … there is no sense of accident behind the fact that we are traveling to Turkey. We scheduled early in my year, and I am really looking forward to leveraging, developing and harnessing those opportunities to further grow what is already a strong relationship."
Bowman said he is keen to discuss U.K.-Turkey business relations with senior government and business representatives in Istanbul, particularly focusing on how the U.K. and Turkey can partner to spur mutual growth.
"Of particular interest are the fields of infrastructure, Islamic Finance, fintech [financial technology] and asset management," he added.
Indicating that another important topic for cooperation with Turkey could be infrastructure, Bowman noted that he hosted a meeting on this issue in London in May. "The infrastructure is an important issue all over the world. I know we can cooperate in this area with Turkey," he added.
During his stay in Turkey, Bowman will meet with government officials, supervisory and regulatory organizations and trade organizations.
Speaking on Istanbul's target of being one of the most important financial centers in the world, Bowman said: "There is a growing financial technology sector in Turkey. As London, we can provide support and collaborate on this issue."
"The lord mayor is expected to speak at Deloitte's 'Doing Business with the U.K.' conference, where he will talk about the strength of the city of London and opportunities for U.K.-Turkey collaboration," an official statement on his Turkey visit stated.