Turkey urges free trade among Turkic countries at Istanbul summit

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Turkic countries need to strengthen their economic ties by enabling free trade, Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said Thursday.

"Turkic countries are not rivals of each other. Trade must be free on a large scale among the Turkic Council countries," Zeybekci said at a meeting of the Ministers of Economy of Turkic Council in Istanbul.

The Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States, also known as Turkic Council, was establish in 2009 to promote cooperation among Turkic-speaking states, including Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey.

Zeybekci underlined that free trade among the Council members would accelerate their economic power.

Turkic countries complement each other, and may have a strong place in global trade, economy and raw material and finished product markets by coming together, Zeybekci said.

The minister said that the Turkic region and the global economy were going through a major transformation and these countries had to have a long-term road map to provide wealth for their citizens.

"If the Turkic world can cooperate in this time, then it would be the gamesetter and rule-maker in its region. As a first step, we should remove the trade obstacles that stand in our way," Zeybekci added.

Turkey's total exports to three Turkic states — Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan — totaled $2.2 billion while imports from these countries stood at nearly $1.5 billion last year, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute.

Zeybekci noted that the logistical ties between Turkic countries should be strengthened.

The global exports of Turkic Council countries decreased by 27.2 percent to $190 billion in 2016 compared to 2014 when global energy prices started to decline, he said.

The minister noted that only $5.5 billion, or 2.9 percent, of this figure corresponded to the volume of trade amongst the Council members themselves.

"We even witnessed that as six Turkic states, counting Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan which are not members of the Turkic Council, our total global export volume decreased by 26.5 percent to $205 billion in 2016, down from $279.1 billion in 2014," he said, adding Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan needed to join the Council.

Zeybekci called for deepening relations between the member countries by way of increasing mutual investments.

Turkey has already renewed the mutual promotion and protection of investments agreements with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, and would like to do the same with other Turkic states, he said.

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