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Ankara working closely with Beijing to expand ties: Turkish ambassador

DATE:2015-11-16       SOURCE:China Daily
 

By Wang Xu (chinadaily.com.cn)  Updated: 2015-11-13 10:20

 

In a wide-ranging interview, Turkish Ambassador to China Ali Murat Ersoy discusses growing bilateral ties, Belt and Silk Road Initiative, and terrorism with China Daily. Here are the excerpts:

 

1. Turkish President RecepTayyip Erdogan visited China this July, a trip that is believed to have improved ties between the two countries. What's your assessment of the current ties?

 

Our centuries old relationship has been developing steadily since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1971. In 2010 they were elevated to the level of "strategic cooperation". We have signed numerous agreements and established exchange mechanisms in several fields. We are working closely with our Chinese friends to expand the scope of our cooperation.

 

The visit of President Erdogan to Beijing in July 2015 constituted an important step to further strengthen the existing friendly relations with China and to elaborate on new fields of cooperation.

 

During the visit, an agreement concerning the reciprocal protection of investments was signed. A medium- and long-term plan for trade and economic relations was completed and both countries announced the establishment of a deputy prime ministers level mechanism. We do believe that these instruments will boost the bilateral relations and contribute to the improvement of mutual investments and trade.

 

On July 30, 2015, the Turkish-Chinese Business Forum was held in Beijing. Chinese President Xi Jinping honored the Business Forum and gave an important speech highlighting the achievements in bilateral economic relations, and encouraged Chinese businessmen to invest in Turkey. In his speech President Erdogan also encouraged businessmen of both countries to make the best use of existing and new legal instruments and underlined the importance of the Silk Road projects.

 

What are the major imports and exports between the two countries?

 

There has been a significant improvement in our trade and commercial relations within the past 10 years. Chinais Turkey's largest trade partner in the Far East and its third-largest in the world. The bilateral trade volume stands at around $28 billion. Yet, we have to work together to realize a more balanced trade structure. To this end, Turkey has been taking necessary measures to attract more investments from China and continues to encourage Turkish businessmen to evaluate the opportunities presented by the Chinese domestic market.

 

Turkey's main exports to China are raw materials, metals, ores, marble, leather and some agricultural products. We import intermediate and other industrial and consumer goods such as telecommunication devices, machinery and office equipment from China.

 

2. President Xi outlined key areas of cooperation between China and Turkey, including high-speed railways, new energy and finance, when he met with President Erdogan. How do you feel about these proposals? And how China and Turkey could cooperate with each other on these proposals and in other areas like the Belt and Road Initiative? How will the Belt and Road Initiative benefit Turkey?

 

From 2003 to 2014, Turkey's average economic growth rate reached 5 percent and its GDP stood at $800 billion in 2014, ranking seventh in Europe and 18th in the world, with a per capita national income of $10,500. Over the past decade, Turkey has attracted $12.4 billion on average in FDI every year. Turkey has become an attractive location for foreign investments.

 

Strengthening successful export policies and promoting exports from Turkey to China are among our priorities.

 

We also highly value our investment cooperation with China. Turkey is a country enjoying rapid economic development. It has a young population, qualified human resources, an ideal geographic location, an open and innovative investment environment, a well-developed infrastructure network, competitive/preferential tax and incentive policies, a booming domestic market and the advantages of being part of the European Customs Union.

 

Turkey welcomes investors from China for projects in areas like infrastructure, port, airport, channel, railway, subway, energy, automobile, mechanical industry, banking and telecommunications.

 

We have a strong public finance and banking sector, which enabled Turkey to be minimally affected by the global economic crisis. Turkey and China have been among the relatively less affected countries. There is great potential for cooperation in the finance sector, and we welcome the new trend of China's major banks entering the Turkish banking industry.

 

In recent years, Turkish businessmen have become increasingly aware of China as a big market, an investment destination and also a central location regarding investments in surrounding countries. Our entrepreneurs, especially those with long-term investments, are enjoying preferential policies, which is part of China's opening-up endeavors to attract and encourage foreign investments. We are proud to see that Turkish investors achieved success in China on products such as generators, household appliances, auto parts, textiles and even realizing Turkish ownership and management in the shopping mall segment of the new economy.

 

We have already attracted more than a quarter million Chinese tourists this year. Turkey is a popular tourist destination. As of last year, it received 41 million tourists and ranks seventh in the world. We will be working to attract more tourists from China.

 

Both countries should also develop new projects such as establishing a Turkish-Chinese University as discussed by our presidents. Turkey welcomes and supports the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Maritime Silk Road initiatives proposed by President Xi. Straddling across Europe and Asia, Turkey is a critical part of the Silk Road with its unique location. It constitutes the key connection between the East and the West.

 

There is a range of major infrastructure projects currently underway in Turkey. These projects will also help restore the prosperity of the ancient Silk Road and can be integrated into the "One Belt One Road" initiative. The Marmaray tunnel connecting the continents of Asia and Europe under the Bosporus became operational in 2013. Edirne-Kars high-speed railway will provide the essential modern connection across Turkey. Another major project, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway, will be completed in the near future. Once it becomes operational, also using the Caspian link to Central Asia, it will constitute a formidable and additional railway connection between the East and the West, linking Europe, Caucasus, Central Asia and the Far East. We call this project: "The Middle Corridor". It will constitute a direct, high-speed and safe international rail connection from Beijing to London.

 

Another Turkish initiative is the "Caravanserai Project" which was introduced as a concept in 2008 to increase cooperation among customs authorities along the Silk Road. This project aims to facilitate trade and transport by accelerating border crossing procedures in Asia.

 

There are many other potential areas to tap. Why not create a Silk Road University Exchange Program or even a Silk Road University? Why not materialize a Silk Road Tourism project by renovating the old caravanserais along the route? The Turkish Ministry of Culture has thought about it years ago. There are many opportunities and potential projects to think on.

 

We also consider the initiative of China to establish the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which is expected to finance infrastructure investments, as a timely and necessary step. Turkey is among the founding members of the AIIB.

 

The lack of capital for the development of infrastructure is a major obstacle in Asia's social and economic development. Therefore, I believe that, the AIIB, as well as the Silk Road Fund will offer new possibilities in this respect.

 

All these projects, initiatives and more will lay the ground for better infrastructure, better connections, more trade, more people-to-people interactions between Turkey and China. Therefore, both our countries will benefit from "One Belt One Road".

 

3. The 2015 G20 will be held in Turkey in November, what is your expectation for this summit? Some say that Turkey is the perfect location for a summit like G20, how do you feel about that? As you may know that the G20 next year will be held in China, what is your suggestion to China?

 

Meeting the risks and challenges of today's world requires strong multilateral efforts as many of the challenges can only be responded collectively. In that respect, G20 is an important instrument. Its membership comprises a mix of the world's largest advanced and emerging economies, representing about two-thirds of the total population, 85 per cent of global GDP and over 75 per cent of global trade.

 

Turkey has been an active member of the G20 and took over the Presidency in 2015. After the G20 Leader's Summit in Antalya, we will hand over the presidency to China.

 

The G20 is the premier platform for global economic and financial issues and we hope to achieve further steps during the Antalya Summit.

 

Turkey is the perfect location for the G20 Summit as it represents the meeting point of the East, the West, the North and the South. It is in Europe, in Asia and in very close proximity to Africa. It is a part of the Balkans, the Mediterranean and the Middle East. The Black Sea and the Caucasus connections further enhance its multi-dimensional character. Therefore, Turkey is a perfect venue to announce united efforts at the meeting point of multiple regions and continents.

 

This year's summit will underline Turkish presidency's key messages:

 

a) We strive for helping to enable inclusive and robust global growth through collective action with a view to lift the potential of the global economy.

 

b) Our priorities were formulated as the three I's: Inclusiveness, Implementation and Investment.

 

c) In connection with the above mentioned priorities, we address issues related to low-income developing countries and small-and medium-sized enterprises as cross-cutting themes under G20 work streams.

 

In brief, this year Turkey focuses on ways to make the G20 more relevant to the rest of the world. We want to make sure that our decisions and actions would benefit non-G20 countries as well and provide the ground for a better global dialogue. We concentrate on both the national and international levels of inclusiveness. Gender equality, employment, food security and energy access for all were significant parts of our agenda.

 

The Turkish presidency's proposal for G20 countries to prepare concrete and ambitious national investment strategies to support their national growth strategies has received broad support from the membership.

 

During its presidency, Turkey has also been actively engaged in the implementation and improvement of the achievements of the Brisbane Summit. We worked closely with Australia and China as part of the Troika.

 

Let me give a few examples to the achievements of the Turkish presidency:

 

-In May 2015, G20 Ministers of Agriculture meeting was convened for the first time since 2011 and highlighted the importance of food security. An "Action Plan on Food Security and Sustainable Food Systems" will be submitted to the leaders for endorsement in Antalya.

 

-Turkey hosted the first G20 Energy Ministers meeting in Istanbul and access to energy was one of the top agenda items. The Energy Ministers also came together with African Energy Ministers and institutional investors to discuss access to energy in Sub Saharan Africa at a high level conference held on 1 October 2015.

 

-A new G20 engagement group, the Women-20 (W20), was established to promote gender inclusive economic growth.

 

-The World SME Forum has been established in cooperation with the International Chamber of Commerce, the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey and world Chambers Federation.

 

In November 2015, in addition to the G-20 Leaders Summit, the following important meetings will be held in Antalya: November 12-14, 2015, Think-20 Summit; November 13-14, 2015, Labour-20 Summit; November 14-15, 2015, Business-20 Summit.

 

I am sure that the Chinese presidency will be very active and efficient next year. China will do the follow-up of the Brisbane Action Plan as well as the outcome of Antalya Summit and come up with some new and innovative ideas to further the work of G20. We have to continue the work to make G20 more relevant to the rest of the world. For only then, G20 can be a truly global platform.

 

4. The presidents of China and Turkey made clear their resolve to combat terrorism, including the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, during talks in Beijing in July and the Turkish people suffered a lot in the Ankara bombing in October. What Turkey will do in the next step to fight against terrorism?

 

Terrorism is a global problem and no country in the world is spared of its ugly face. We have all witnessed deadly attacks and damage. The tragic event in Ankara this past October was unfortunately not the first and only terrorist attack in Turkey. We have been fighting with terrorism for more than 30 years now and have lost more than 35.000 of our citizens during this period.

 

Turkey condemns all forms of terrorism and believes that the fight against terrorism necessitates cooperation and coordination among all. We are actively engaged in bilateral, regional and international fora to fight this menace. We are ready to work together with all countries who are seeking our cooperation. There are strong and clear communication channels between Turkey and China in terrorism related matters.

 

5. As we all know that Turkey is a leading power in the Middle East, how do you see the leadership evolve in the next 10 years?

 

In recent years we have been witnessing major political changes in the Middle East and North Africa, which unfortunately had many adverse effects on our country and beyond. To this end I can only mention some major areas of great concern: Security issues, terrorism and the refugee situation.

 

The longer the conflicts in our neighborhood continue, the more the security and humanitarian problems will increase. Today, the case of Daesh (ISIS) and the refugee issue have already evolved in to global crises. Countries have difficulties finding solutions on their own. Global issues necessitate global solutions. We need to work together to find solutions to these problems.

 

It is difficult to make a prediction for the future of the Middle East. I can only say that the countries of the region and the international community need to focus on the problems, take responsibility, govern their populations in peace and work together in a coordinated manner.

 

What the Middle East needs is more cooperation, reconciliation and the will for cohabitation. There are many countries in the Middle East which have vast human and natural resources, great traditions and a rich intellectual background. If the countries in the region can work together, the Middle East will not only be able to resolve its problems but will be one of the major contributors to global wealth and security. Turkey is ready to contribute and work towards this end.

 

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