Bilateral trade between Turkey and the United Kingdom hit 18.1 billion pounds ($21.9 billion) by the end of 2021 following the signing of a free trade agreement (FTA), said the British consul general in Istanbul and undersecretary of trade for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Kenan Poleo.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), Poleo said that this figure, which represents a 20.2% increase compared to the previous year, is a good sign that shows how resilient the trade between the two countries is after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Describing Turkey as an indispensable partner of the United Kingdom, Poleo said: “After Brexit, we, as Turkey and the United Kingdom, are in the position of two large European countries that are not in the EU. While we place great value on our connections with European institutions such as the EU and the Council of Europe, we are both engaged in intensive work in other parts of the world.”
He said that the U.K. strives to strengthen the partnership with Turkey and make both countries safer and more prosperous. Poleo noted that bilateral trade could reach 20 billion pounds ($24 billion).
“This means that we need to work together on regional stability and security, become partners in the fight against terrorism, and increase our bilateral trade and investment relations,” he said.
Commenting on the bilateral trade, the British diplomat said the demand for Turkish-made goods is high in the U.K., highlighting that the country is second on the list of countries to which Turkey exports the most.
“Turkey has become one of the U.K.'s key trading partners. It is among the top 20 countries to which we export the most. The new FTA has also removed the uncertainty about what will happen after the Customs Union, which has rightly worried companies on both sides.”
Poleo stressed that they now want to take this further and have decided to add new sectors to the FTA.
“Turkey and the United Kingdom will start negotiations on new sectors, including areas such as the service sector, agriculture, investments and the digital economy, which are not included in our trade under the EU's Customs Union agreement. This will give us the opportunity to capture the true potential of trade between our countries,” he underscored.
Highlighting that there are huge opportunities for commercial relations between the U.K. and Turkey, Poleo said that in this period, the total exports from the U.K. to Turkey reached 6.5 billion pounds, making Turkey the U.K.'s 18th largest trading partner.
In addition to bilateral trade, he said joint investments between the two countries continue to increase.
“With 19% of all investments made in Turkey, the United Kingdom ranked first in the list of investors in Turkey in 2021. Apart from long-time investors like Vodafone, HSBC, Rolls Royce and BP, we also have new investors such as BUPA, Dyson and Vitabiotics.”
He also happily noted the increase in the number of Turkish investors achieving their global goals through their strategic investments in the UK.
To give a few examples, Poleo said the fast delivery startup Getir invests over 100 million pounds across the U.K., Eren Holding has a 500 million pound corrugated board investment and Ciner Group invests 390 million pounds in glass bottling.
“Companies that are rapidly advancing in technology continue to prefer the United Kingdom for their global expansions,” he said.
“I believe that our open, liberal economy, large client base, flexible and dynamic labor market, workplace-friendly tax system and strong and transparent rule of law will encourage more Turkish firms to invest in the UK.”
Poleo went on to say that the U.K. has positioned itself as a successful technology hub. “Techno clusters spread all over the country create a unique ecosystem for companies that scale up in the field of technology. We must continue to encourage competitiveness and productivity-enhancing investments in order to establish a more meaningful link between our economies."
Poleo said the U.K.'s complementary skills and expertise have untapped potential for cooperation in clean growth and renewable energy.
Underlining that defense industry cooperation is an important branch of commercial relations, Poleo said: “Turkey has a very well developed defense industry and its state-supported companies are among the top 100 companies in the world. It also has young and qualified engineers who are essential for the development of this industry. The U.K. industry also has many features to offer to complement Turkey's goals in this technology-driven sector.”
“Defense and aerospace sectors are among the other sectors where our countries can cooperate to create economy and increase and benefit from each other's competitive advantage.”
“We are very happy to see that a fruitful cooperation has already been established between our countries in this critical area. Turkey's flagship TF-X project is one of the best examples of this cooperation,” he said.
The TF-X National Combat Aircraft (MMU) is a fifth-generation jet with similar features to Lockheed Martin's F-35 Lightning II. Turkey’s defense industry in cooperation with the British company, Rolls-Royce for the engine that will power the aircraft.
Highlighting that digital transformation is a shared priority of the British and Turkish governments as reflected in both countries' high-level strategic documents, such as their national AI strategies, Poleo emphasized that the U.K. technology ecosystem is one of the world's most promising.
“Turkey's strategic location, combining European and Asian influence, makes Turkey a great base for new IT startups. It is a huge hub with demographic data to support this development,” he said.
"It has a large population, has a wide range of wireless and wired broadband infrastructure, and there are government policies that support all of these. We hope that these factors, when combined with the support and cooperation of the United Kingdom, will develop Turkey's technology sector very quickly,” he added.