Singapore's ambassador to Ankara A. Selvarajah has welcomed high-level relations between Turkey and Singapore which were boosted further with Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım's recent visit to the city-state.
Pointing out Turkey's growing interest in Southeast Asia, Selvarajah said Singapore was the first country visited by the Turkish prime minister as part of his official visits in the region in August. According to him, it contributed a great deal to the strengthening of dialogue between the countries. He stressed that the two countries have a lot to learn from each other's experiences for increased cooperation.
During his visit to Singapore, Yıldırım said that Turkey considers Singapore as a gateway to the region and it favors cooperation in various fields from counterterrorism to economy.
At the 50th foreign ministers' meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) held in Manila in August, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu announced that Turkey became an ASEAN sectoral dialogue partner.
The significance of this step has been stressed by the officials in Ankara in regards to that ASEAN represents a population of 600 million and its 10 member states together represents the world's sixth-largest economy.
Following this development, Ankara has ramped up efforts to forge alliances with ASEAN member states and looks to open diplomatic missions in each of the member countries.
"We aim to boost our relations with the region. We, Turkey, would like to be a member of ASEAN, not a dialogue partner. I would like to say that we are ready for this," President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in 2015 during his visit to the Indonesian capital Jakarta.
In line with Ankara's policy to boost ties with ASEAN nations, free trade agreement between Turkey and Singapore went into effect on Oct. 1, which covers tariff elimination for more than 95 percent of all of Turkey's tariff lines.
Commenting on the agreement, Selvarajah told Daily Sabah that "it is one of the most comprehensive trade agreements that Turkey has signed with another country and hopefully with that, the trade between Turkey and Singapore will increase significantly." He said that the agreement encompasses areas that Turkey is interested in discussing with the European Union as well, such as services, agriculture, and e-commerce.
The ambassador said that Singaporean and Turkish businesses need to be informed about the benefits of the agreement and investing in the respective regions.
Touching upon the future steps regarding the agreement, Selvarajah said: "The Singaporean Trade Ministry is trying to organize a seminar for Singaporean businessmen to provide information on the new trade agreement, the ways of increasing trade with Turkey and joining ventures with Turkish companies to go into the Balkans and North Africa given Turkish businessmen have more experience in these regions."
Selvarajah said that Turkish businesses were also encouraged to come to Singapore and benefit from the businesses' experience in the region, adding that the Turkish Economy Ministry and the International Enterprise Singapore office in Istanbul were set to hold some seminars for Turkish businessmen.