Turkish investors keen for joint ventures with Pakistanis: Cavusoglu
THE Turkish Foreign Minister Mr. Mevlut Cavusoglu says Turkey and Pakistan have completed third round of negotiations on the proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in Ankara and the next one will take place by the end of this month. The two countries want to sign the FTA soon.
The Turkish Foreign Minister said this in an interview. The following are excerpts:
Q: What is the focus of your present visit to Pakistan? What issues would you discuss with Pakistani leadership?
A: Turkey and Pakistan enjoy deep-rooted and time-tested relations of brotherhood. We are not geographically neighbours, but the affinity between Turkey and Pakistan is unique, since the close ties between our countries derive its strength from the brotherly relations between our peoples.
In line with the excellent political relations between our countries, there is a tradition of regular high level visits. It has been a while since the last visit from Turkey to Pakistan at the Foreign Minister level and I am pleased to visit Pakistan today.
Our bilateral relations and regional developments will be on the agenda during my visit. Following our meeting with Brother Sartaj Aziz, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, we will organize a joint press conference where we will provide details about our talks.
Q: There is a huge potential to boost bilateral trade and economic relations between the two countries. What steps are being taken to exploit this potential for mutual benefit of the two sides?
A: The excellent bilateral relations are already being transformed into a vibrant economic partnership as both countries want to build strong and mutually advantageous relations.
However, the potential for economic cooperation and integration between Turkey and Pakistan has not yet been fully tapped despite the high complementarity of the economic structures and efforts of entrepreneurs of two countries. A major reason for this is weak logistics connections. I believe that strengthening logistics connectivity between the two countries and further to Eurasia will bring a strong impetus to the integration between the two countries
We are working on increasing our transport connectivity by all means. Flights have been increased and need to be increased even further. In this regard, container train service on the Istanbul–Islamabad corridor provides a fast, reliable and low-cost logistics alternative that has a potential to boost trade relations. BALO (Great Anatolia Logistics Organization) is undertaking feasibility studies for strengthening coordination and initiating further investments for this train service.
“Road Transport Joint Commission” between the two countries will hold its second meeting in Islamabad this month. In this regard, Pakistan’s adherence to International TIR (Transports Internationaux Routiers) system in 2015 is an important step for the regulation of road transport.
People to people connections are also of great importance for fostering connectivity and integration between Turkey and Pakistan. Turkey-Pakistan Business Council and the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey are closely cooperating with the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry to provide platforms for increasing interaction between the business communities.
Turkish and Pakistani business communities are also cooperating at the regional and trilateral level in the organizations and mechanisms such as the Federation of D-8 Chambers of Commerce and Industry and Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), Chambers of Commerce (ECO CCI) and Istanbul Forum for Economic Cooperation between Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan. To foster entrepreneurship and innovation in three countries and the relations between young entrepreneurs, the Forum aims to establish business incubation centres similar to GARAJ incubation centre in TOBB University of Economics and Technology with the assistance of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA).
At the governmental level “The Joint Economic Commission (JEC)” meetings enable economic governmental institutions to have regular consultations with their counterparts. The 15th JEC Meeting was successfully held in Ankara on 15-16 October 2014. We hope that the next JEC Meeting will be held in the near future.
Under the framework of “Turkey-Pakistan High Level Strategic Cooperation Council” working groups have been established on industry, trade and investment, banking and finance, culture and tourism and communications-railways.
Holding of trade fairs, exchange of trade delegations, technical assistance and scholarship programmes should be fulfilled to enhance bilateral trade.
Our trade volume with Pakistan exceeded One billion USD in 2011. Unfortunately, it decreased to 599,6 million USD in 2015. We need to increase our trade volume which is far below the potential. In this regard, diversification of our trade is essential. The signing of a Free Trade Agreement without delay will also make a significant contribution to our bilateral trade. Two sides are considering opening trade centres in each other’ countries.
Turkish companies’ investments in Pakistan currently stands at 900 million USD. There are various areas for Turkish investors to explore in the vibrant and potential sectors of tourism, information technology, food processing, agro-based products, dairy development, hotel/restaurant industry and resorts development.
Pakistan has its own energy resources such as hydro-electric, coal, oil and natural gas, shale gas, and also alternative energy resources such as solar and wind. Turkish companies that have experience in energy projects around the world have already been involved in some of these fields in Pakistan with successful results. Energy is a field where we expect more Turkish companies to participate.
Pakistan is the world’s fourth largest producer of milk, fourth largest holder of livestock, fifth largest producer of wheat, among top rice producers and of course in mango production as well. Turkey has made important reforms in agriculture and has a very developed food processing industry. Not only can we trade with each other, but also we can bring know-how and process agricultural products in Pakistan, for exports to third countries.
Turkish textile companies with their developed technical capabilities and investment capacity are also encouraged to explore this sector for joint ventures.
Infrastructure is another area where Turkish companies have extensive international experience. Turkish contractors have undertaken 8693 projects in 107 countries with a total value of 322,6 billion USD. At present 42 Turkish companies are included among the “Top 250 International Contractors List” with an annual turnover of 19,3 billion USD in 2015. With this figure Turkey ranked second in the world after the People’s Republic of China. On the other hand Turkey is among the world’s top 12 producers of building materials such as cement, glass, steel and ceramic tiles. Despite the effects of global crisis in the international markets that have been felt in 2008 and aftermath, Turkish international contracting services fared quite well in this period.
Pakistan is in the process of upgrading and expanding its infrastructure. In fact, many challenges faced today in the field of energy and economy are related to lack of investment in the past in dams, roads and railways. This is another area where our business communities can work together.
Q: Pakistan and Turkey are cooperating to fight the scourge of terrorism? How this cooperation can be further strengthened?
A: Terrorism is a global scourge and should be countered globally. Pakistan is a very important partner not only for Turkey, but for entire international community in our joint fight against terrorist networks. We appreciate efforts of the Pakistani authorities in dealing with this threat. We have exemplary cooperation with Pakistan in countering terrorism. We have a strong legal basis for such cooperation and our relevant authorities are in close contact with their counterparts in Pakistan.
Q: Pakistan-China Economic Corridor is leap forward to enhance connectivity in the region. Do you think it will boost trade and cement economic relations among countries of the region? Is Turkey taking advantage of such projects to enhance regional linkages?
A: We signed the “Memorandum of Understanding on Aligning the Silk Road and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and the Middle Corridor Initiative between the Government of the Republic of Turkey and the Government of the People’s Republic of China” on 14 November 2015 in Antalya, Turkey during the G20 Summit.
We also closely welcome the cooperation between Pakistan and China in this regard.
We have developed certain projects such as the “Middle Corridor” linking Turkey to the Caucasus and the Central Asian Republics via crossing the Caspian Sea. Marmaray tube crossing under the Bosphorus Bridge has already been built and links Europe and Asia.
Another big tube link under the Bosphorus named “Eurasia” is being constructed. Additionally, the third bridge, three-level Bosphorus Tunnel and the new international airport of Istanbul are also under construction and will all be parts of an intermodal transport linkage between Europe and Asia. Once the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project becomes operational, an uninterrupted railway line will connect Beijing to London through the Caspian Sea and the Bosphorus
We attach great importance to the utilization of the “Middle Corridor”, which will constitute a cost effective and complementary route.
We believe that Turkey, Pakistan and China can collaborate closely in reviving the ancient Silk Road. Therefore a strong cooperation between these countries will bring successful results in aligning the Silk Road Economic Belt initiative with the Middle Corridor project.
We believe that the Middle Corridor Initiative and the “Belt and Road” will contribute to regional development, welfare, cultural exchange and enhance people-to-people contacts. It will also provide new employment opportunities and energy security. Thus, we support integration projects in the fields of transportation, logistics, investment, energy and trade that would contribute to the realization of the “Modern Silk Road”.
Pakistan’s geographic location shall play an essential role in establishing both the Middle Corridor project and the Belt and Road initiative.
The Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB), where Turkey and Pakistan are founding members, is another area of cooperation between the two countries within the framework of Belt and Road.
We are ready to work together with our Pakistani brothers. In this regard, we think that scheduled rounds of Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad freight trains could be a good area of cooperation within the framework of Belt and Road. To this end, we believe that a regular consultation mechanism should be established between our relevant Ministries, particularly the Ministries of Transportation.
Q: Do you support Pakistan’s stance that talks is the only option to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan. What role Turkey can play in breaking the deadlock in peace talks between Taliban and Afghan government?
A: As one of the main pillars of the political transition and a key to lasting peace in Afghanistan and for regional stability, the successful conclusion of the Peace and Reconciliation Process is vital. In this regard, I wish to underline that Turkey fully supports and considers the “Quadrilateral Coordination Group” and the “High Level Bilateral Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination” between brotherly Pakistan and Afghanistan as constructive steps. We commend the efforts and facilitating role of Pakistan in this regard.
Establishment of mutual trust and a functioning cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan are among the priorities of Turkey’s foreign policy towards the region. With this understanding, Turkey initiated Trilateral Summit mechanism in 2007, and so far eight Summit meetings have been held. As seen in the example of “Quadrilateral Coordination Group” and recently established “High Level Bilateral Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination”, we observe that our efforts brought concrete results in establishing dialogue channels between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
I am convinced that Pakistan and Afghanistan are capable to clear out their differences in finding common solutions to their mutual challenges and establish a genuine trust between their institutions. Turkey will resolutely continue her efforts in this regard and stands ready to assume any additional role if required by both countries. Also, I would like to emphasize that we are ready to host the ninth Summit of the Turkey-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Process.
Q: When Turkey and Pakistan are signing Free Trade Agreement (FTA) as the two sides have already inked its framework? How will it impact trade and economic relations between Ankara and Islamabad?
A: Turkey and Pakistan decided to sign a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement at the Fourth High Level Strategic Cooperation Council meeting held on February 2015 in Islamabad. The official negotiations were launched on October 2015. On July 25-27th, 2016, we completed the 3rd Round of FTA negotiations in Ankara. Thanks to the efforts of both the technical delegations and the strong political leadership of our countries, we came a long way regarding the ongoing process. The next round will take place at the end of August 2016 in Islamabad.
In 2015, our bilateral trade volume was 599.7 million USD. Our exports to Pakistan were 289 million USD, while our imports from Pakistan were 310.5 million USD. In the first 5 months of 2016, compared to the same period of 2015, our exports to Pakistan increased by 39.6% and became 151 million USD, whereas our imports from Pakistan decreased by 30.2% and realized as 105 million USD. In this period, our bilateral trade volume reached 256 million USD.
Even though we observe a slight decrease in our bilateral trade volume in the first 5 months of 2016, I believe that our efforts will pave the way for carrying our bilateral trade volume to higher levels in a mutually beneficial way.
We believe that this comprehensive FTA will also bring our countries closer by opening up new horizons in our economic and commercial ties. It will no doubt increase the bilateral trade volume and contribute to strengthened deep-rooted and strong economic relations. Additionally, the inclusion of trade in services and investment into the FTA will also serve to deepen our trade and investment relations further. Therefore, I am confident that finalizing the FTA by the end of September this year, as it was decided by our leaders, will not only strengthen our trade relations, but will also contribute significantly to developing our bilateral investments.
Q: What is your evaluation of the failed coup attempt?
A: What happened on the night of July 15th was not just a treacherous plot: It was a terrorist campaign. The perpetrators fired at non-armed civilians, stabbed their top commanders in the back and bombed the National Parliament and the Office of the Presidency. They tried to assassinate the President and the Prime Minister. The traitors killed 246 Turkish citizens, majority of who were civilians who took to the streets in order to defend their freedoms and democratic institutions. 2185 people were wounded. Their aim was to overthrow the democratically elected government and institute a dictatorship of a devious cult.
From the very beginning, the command-control chain and majority of the Turkish Armed Forces stood up against the coup attempt. Both the police and public prosecutors immediately took necessary measures to foil the attempt. Turkish media also played a key role in subsiding the coup attempt. United together against this violent conspiracy, all political parties and Members of the Turkish Grand National Assembly stood firmly by democracy, democratic politics, legitimate institutions and the Constitution.
Above all, it was the people of Turkey from all backgrounds and political views who thwarted the plot. They displayed a historic solidarity as they stood bravely in front of the tanks and reclaimed their democratic rights. In short, the people of Turkey have proven their patriotism and commitment to democracy.
This coup attempt was staged by the Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization (FETÖ). This is crystal clear. We have testimonies of apprehended army officers who took part in the coup attempt who confessed their affiliation with FETÖ. There are other crucial findings, as well.
Our Government has been constantly exposing the real motives of this terrorist group and its leader, Fethullah Gülen, to all allies and partners. The foiled coup is the latest and the most violent criminal act revealing the danger posed by FETÖ.
The Gülen movement is a conspiratorial cult of personality that runs a secretive transnational network. It goes much beyond the schools, charities, and inter-faith activities with which it presents itself to the world. It also has a dark underbelly engaged in covert activities such as evidence fabrication, wiretapping, disinformation, blackmail, and judicial manipulation. They have infiltrated all public institutions, first and foremost the police, army and judiciary.
We are now engaged in a broad effort to bring the plotters to justice and to clean our state structures from these traitors. All of these measures we take are based on our constitution and rule of law. We strongly urge our partners to help us counter this sinister terrorist group which poses a danger not only against Turkey, but also against the security of other countries where they operate.