Turkey breaks export records despite global trade wars and rising protectionism, the country's trade minister said Tuesday.
"Turkish exports may be going through the hardest period but we continue to hit records thanks to steps taken by the government and our exporters," Ruhsar Pekcan told a Turkish ambassadors at a dinner hosted by the Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey (DEİK) and the Turkey Exporters Assembly (TİM).
She underlined the importance of Turkish exports for external financing and economic growth. "We expect this positive trend to continue through year-end," she said.
Turkey's exports also rose by 3.07% to $104.2 billion in the first seven months of the current year, Pekcan announced last week, adding it was the highest seven-month figure in exports.
On the other hand, imports were down by 18.62% in the same period. The trade deficit in the first seven months was $25.5 billion, Pekcan said. She noted that the rate of exports meeting imports in the January-July period increased to 85.8%, up from 67.7% in the same period last year.
In 2018, Turkey's exports hit an all-time high of $167.9 billion, while the figure was nearly $157 billion in the previous year, according to official data.
Pointing to the low share of high-tech products in Turkish exports, Pekcan said the project of specialized free-trade zones would be realized. "We will provide incentives for foreign investors who conduct technology-focused production," she added.
Pekcan said the ministry is working to increase the number of free trade agreements (FTA) as bilateral agreements and FTA's share rather than multiple platforms.
She also called for the ambassadors' support to enter new markets and increase Turkey's share in existing markets.
‘Asia becoming the center of power'
Speaking at the same event, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu emphasized the significance of Asia as an emerging power center. He said the economic power was shifting from the West to the East.
"We see the power of economy is heading from the West to the East, and Asia has started to emerge as the center of power," said Çavuşoğlu.
He added that the Turkish Foreign Ministry has launched a new initiative called "Asia Anew" that aims at improving Turkey's ties with different Asian countries.
The initiative would include cooperation on education, the defense industry, investments, trade, technology, culture and political dialogue.
"The world is going through a process of change," he said, adding that "the unpredictable transition period" and "domination of uncertainties" are the most challenging aspects of the process. Noting that unpredictability was making it hard to set a target, he expressed confidence that the country will overcome these problems.
Describing trade wars as new "technology wars," Çavuşoğlu said those who invest in innovation and technology, will be the winners.
"This year, we give importance, especially to digital diplomacy. We know that a strong economy means a strong foreign policy," he said.
Çavuşoğlu noted that it has become important to follow and analyze the direction to which the power of the economy is headed and produce policies accordingly.
"Our colleagues have benefited from the meetings we have held with different business councils. We have improved more this year and have no doubt that we will hold more productive meetings next year," he added.
Çavuşoğlu emphasized that with the ambassadors' conference, Turkey intended to give a message, to be strong on the ground as well as across the table.
"We need to be strong in the field, and we need to be strong at the table. If we are strong in the field, we can achieve our goal in trade, investment and in our internal relations. But we must conserve our gains achieved in the field, at the table also," he said.
Turkish traders seek help of diplomats to increase exports
Turkish business circles, on the other hand, have sought support from the country's ambassadors and trade counselors in world capitals in order to improve trade ties with foreign nations.
The Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey (DEİK) Chairman Nail Olpak said they want to benefit from the country's diplomatic corps – the fifth largest in the world.
Speaking at the same event, Olpak said the board decided to work with Turkey's trade counselors abroad more interactively, through frequent communication.
"Communication is a vital power. We will keep it open and continue to use it effectively," he said. Olpak said with 146 business councils, the DEİK has made trade diplomacy its mission.
"DEİK is conducting numerous projects and studies related to the African Continental FTA, post-Brexit relations with the U.K., $100 billion trade volume target with the U.S., China's Belt and Road Initiative and the target markets determined by the Turkish Trade Ministry," he said.
Olpak added that Turkish businesses expect better investment conditions, thanks to decreasing interest rates, both in Turkey and around the world. "We need to increase our savings and transfer them to fields that support Turkey's economic growth and strengthen the local industry," he said.
He hoped that in the next four years, which are slated to be election free in Turkey, there would be a great opportunity for decisive actions and reforms to reach sustainable economic growth and more qualified production.
Objective: To be among top 30 exporter countries
TİM head Ismail Gülle said the global trade volume hit its historic peak last year with over $20 trillion.
As an important "soft power" of Turkey, Gülle said TİM provides 24/7 service for the country's 85,000 exporters informing them about global opportunities, trends and threats.
"In the January-July period this year, Turkey's exports were $104 billion, breaking the all-time seven-month record," he said.
Gülle added that the support of Turkish ambassadors and trade counselors have increased the confidence of exporters to access healthy market information.
"We would like to claim a greater share in the $6-trillion global services trade," he said, adding that TİM's target was to make Turkey one of world's top 30 exporters by 2023, the centennial of the Republic.