An aerial view of the Jebel Ali Port DP world (JAFZA). Image Credit: Asghar Khan/Gulf News Archive

Abu Dhabi: Trade between the UAE and Turkey amounted to Dh33.3 billion ($9.1 billion) in the first eight months of 2012, which was three times the UAE’s exports to Turkey in 2011, said Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi, minister of foreign trade at the Abu Dhabi–Turkey Business Forum in Abu Dhabi.

Al Qasimi said that the UAE economy is expected to grow by 4 per cent this year compared to 3 per cent in 2012 and this will contribute to the success economic and trade plans with Turkey.

Al Qasimi pointed out that the UAE has started to focus in its investments on countries in Africa and central Asia, whose economies are booming.

Khalfan Al Kaabi, First Vice Chairman of Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, called on enhancing economic and trade relations between the companies and establishments in the emirate of Abu Dhabi with their Turkish counterparts.

“We seek to further boost our investments in Turkey and to enhance business with our Turkish counterparts in various fields,” said Al Kaabi.

The sentiment was backed up by Mustafa Cikrikcioglu, chairman of the Turkish Exporters Assembly. “UAE imports goods worth $3.2 billion, mainly machines, equipment and food products, and we imported commodities, mainly oil products, worth $8.2 billion,” he said.

“Trade exchanges between the UAE and Turkey increased by 288 per cent last year. Our exports to UAE included gold, carpets, food products, heavy industries as well as construction materials.”

He added that UAE investments in Turkey are increasing and that there are currently 13 UAE companies that have large investments in energy, heavy industries and infrastructure in Turkey.

“There are 13 UAE companies in Turkey while there are more than 600 Turkish companies working in the UAE,” said Cikrikcioglu, who added that Turkish annual foreign trade exchanges amount to $400 billion while UAE foreign trade amounts to $380.

“Trade exchanges of both countries are huge and should increase our bilateral exchange of commodities and investments as both countries have great opportunities and capabilities, particularly in the field of construction and contracting. We are ready to share experiences.

“Turkey’s GDP is $800 billion and there are more than $200 billion of projects under construction in our country.”

Zafer Caglayan, Turkish minister of economy, remarked that the developed nations, which are suffering from tough economic hardships that would take more than 5-10 years to solve, are now “eying the Middle East and North Africa [Mena] region, which witness economic growth and many promising investment opportunities”.

“The main economies of the world are like tigers, seeking better opportunities, and they are in a race,” said Caglayan. “Turkey is also targeting better investments opportunities in the region because of its proximity to the region.”

He added that Turkish economy is among the biggest economies of the world and that its Gross National Product (GNP) was more than $1.3 trillion in 2012.

“We are amongst top 17 economies of the world,” he said. “We exported commodities worth $195 million in 2012, 50 per cent were to the European Union and 50 per cent to the Mena. The UAE is an important and big market for our firms operating in the construction sector.

“Three years ago I decided with Shaikha Lubna to increase to the volume of trade exchange between our two countries to reach $10 billion by 2015; actually we achieved this figure in 2012 and now we are targeting $15 billion by 2015.”

Abdul Salam Al Ali, director of the UAE’s Department of Foreign Trade Policies, said earlier that the UAE is the second biggest trade partner for Turkey in the Middle East region after Iraq. Bilateral relations between the UAE and Turkey have growing steadily in recent times.

In January 2013, the two countries signed an agreement to invest in a $12 billion power project in Turkey’s Afsin-Elbistan region according to which Abu Dhabi-based Taqa and Turkey’s state-owned Electricity Generation Company (Euas) will acquire, modernise and expand the existing 1,400 MW Plant B and develop several new power plants and associated coal mines in southern Turkey to provide 8000 megawatts of power. The project is estimated to be completed in 2021.