Distinguished Members of the Association of Austrian College,
I greet you all with respect. We are pleased to host you in the facilities of the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce. I am honored to be with you at the second meeting of the Business Platform initiated by your Association.
Such NGOs generate a great synergy by causing positive convergences both at national and at international levels. Therefore, I would like to congratulate the managers of the Association for this initiative.
First of all, please note that the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, being one the oldest and biggest professional organization of Turkey –celebrating its 125th anniversary- and among the top 5 Chambers throughout the world, attaches a great importance to cooperate with the non-governmental organizations representing the business world or the other parts of the society. My presence here today is an important indication of this priority given to such cooperation.
Why is this so important to us?
Because, we believe, such organizations will help to increase the trade volume and joint investments between Turkey and other countries to higher levels, and bring us closer in many areas such as culture, trade, tourism, and economy.
Therefore, I would like to highlight that our Chamber is open to any cooperation with Austrian-based organizations in order to accelerate the bilateral relations. That is why I believe that this meeting of the Business Platform will play an important role in improving and strengthening the economic, social and commercial relations between the two countries.
I address to you today as the president of the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce that represents 350,000 members that constitute the enterprises in Istanbul. Our city with its population higher than 12 million is larger than 100 countries on the world and 16 member states of the EU. It generates a higher GDP of USD 135 billion compared to 8 EU members. Hypothetically, if Istanbul were a country, it would rate as the 55th among 180 countries.
It was the great development and transformation in the Turkish economy that paved the way to such a strong Istanbul. As you may know, according to the IMF data, Turkey is the 19th economy, 22nd exporter, and 16th importer of the world. Last year’s export of USD 85.7 billion was a new record for us. Today, Turkish products circulate all around the world.
Turkey has realized its real growth in the last 5 years. While on average the world grew 4.3%, and the EU grew 1.7%; Turkey grew 7.8%. These numbers for the last 10 years were 3.9%, 2.3%, and 4.3%, respectively. This stability in growth lasts for the last 19 quarters which is a new record.
Especially due to the economic reforms in the EU membership process, there has been a huge increase in foreign investment. For example; the number of foreign companies operating in Turkey raised from 5,600 in 2002 to 14,000 last year, after the enactment of the laws promoting foreign investment. This is a great success for Turkey.
Parallel to all these developments, Turkey has become one of the 15 most profitable countries in terms of investment. The foreign capital of USD 2.9 billion in 2004, increased by 237.9% and raised to 9.8 billion in 2005 while it was 18 billion in 2006, the expectations for this year is 22.5 billion.
ITO has considerable contribution with regard to Turkey’s development. Since 1882 ITO has advocated free-trade under the liberal economic model and it has supported the integration of Turkish businessmen with international competition. To consolidate this, it organizes the participation of many Turkish firms to the prestigious international fairs. Through organizing seminars, conferences, national and international business visits, we endeavor to create a global trade conscious in Turkey.
That’s why; we suggest joint activities and meetings to strengthen bilateral relation of Austria and Turkey. Personally, I believe that shared approaches will improve the current relations.
Incidentally, I must highlight the negotiation process which has been carried out by Turkey and European Union. We support full integration of Turkey with EU institutions and EU members seeing that Turkey has always been a part of Europe’s cultural and political structure throughout the history. Thus, Turkey’s full membership process should not be blocked due to démodé phobias. It should be taken into account that Turkey belongs to Europe and it is in the dynamic process of realization of EU reforms regarding economic, political and legal affairs.
Again Turkey with 72 million population of inhabitants, export-oriented strong industry, developing information society and growing foreign investments has accomplished to integrate with global economy.
I regret to express, Austria is in the group of EU member states which explicitly object Turkey’s membership. However, I do not want concentrate other approaches rather than prevalent misunderstanding of Turkey in Austrian society. Therefore, I think affiliations or organizations like St. George’s Business Platform have significant responsibility in terms of developing the bilateral relations.
I would like to conclude my speech by mentioning some of our EU lobbying activities. With the year of 2005, we have launched our lobbying activities in Brussels in order to introduce Turkey to the EU’s substantial stakeholders. Besides, we have visited and exchanged ideas with the representatives of Commission and European Parliaments during our periodical visits. Also we will continue these lobbying activities effectively in 2007.
Hereby, I congratulate St. George’s Business Platform for its contribution to the relations of Turkey and Austria. And I would like to indicate that as ITO we are ready to support such initiatives.
Istanbul, 05 March 2007 Murat Yalçıntaş
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