Negotiations on the Turkey-Singapore Free Trade Agreement are making good progress, and are almost complete. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci gave this update on Monday (Oct 13) at a lunch meeting with business executives from both countries.
The trade pact was launched in January this year. “The goods part is more or less negotiated. The services part always will be more difficult, but that is where there will be greater dividend. If we can overcome these difficulties, we will be able to do more together,” said Mr Lee, who is in Istanbul on the second day of his first official visit to Turkey.
“There is a whole range of areas in which we can work together, including government procurement, including transportation. We hope that we will be able to use this both as a symbol of good relations between our two countries, as well as a scheme where we can strength our cooperation and yield practical benefits to companies that want to trade and invest with one another,” he added.
More than 70 officials and business leaders from Singapore and Turkey were at the lunch meeting, including representatives from top Turkish conglomerates, investment groups, and firms from sectors such as medical technologies, steel and food processing. The focus of the discussion was fostering closer trade and investment exchanges, and Mr Lee said that there was scope for greater cooperation.
During the meeting, Mr Lee and Mr Zeybekci said there was a lot of potential to grow trade futher. Bilateral trade between Turkey and Singapore amounted to S$1.4 billion in 2013.
Mr Lee added that Singapore is upgrading its economy and looking for new opportunities to invest abroad, and to attract new partners to invest in Singapore.
“We are, in a way, at a developed level of per capita GDP. But in other ways, in terms of our level of technology, in terms of the comprehensiveness of our economy, in terms of our companies reaching abroad, I think we have some distance to go before we count ourselves as fully developed country like America, Japan or Germany. So we are looking for new partners and I think, between Singapore and Turkey there is good potential.”
Mr Lee also said that Singapore is “in the middle of a vibrant region in Southeast Asia” and with the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) due for completion by end-2015, this will enable companies to tap opportunities from a market with 600 million people. The AEC will transform ASEAN into a region with free movement of goods, services, investment, skilled labour and freer flow of capital. Singapore is also a member of trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Lee was hosted to dinner by the mayor of Istanbul, Kadir Topbas, where they affirmed good relations between Singapore and Turkey, and welcomed more opportunities to strengthen business and other exchanges between the two cities.
CEMENTING BILATERAL TIES
Meanwhile, speaking at the 4th Turkey-Singapore Business Forum in Istanbul, Singapore’s Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang described the upcoming free trade pact with Turkey as “progressive” and “covering a wide variety of sectors”, and said it would further cement bilateral ties between the two countries when it is completed.
Speaking to over 100 businessmen from both countries , Mr Lim said Turkey is an emerging market for Singapore companies, and its economic growth and potential make it an attractive investment destination.
Singapore’s stock of direct investment abroad into Turkey stood at S$289 million dollars in 2012. Singapore companies with notable presence in Turkey currently include PSA, ST Electronics, CWT Globelink, Charles and Keith, Jurong Consultants, Clifford Capital and Frasers Hospitality.
“Our companies are also developing new expertise in data analytics, consumer and lifestyle businesses, safety and security, as well as space technologies,” said Mr Lim. “As Turkey pushes ahead with infrastructure and industrial development, Singapore companies have the right capabilities in these sectors to partner Turkish companies and contribute to Turkey’s growth.”
Mr Lim added that the two countries can work with each other as a springboard into emerging markets – Singapore as a gateway to East Asia and Western Pacific, and Turkey as a base to tap opportunities in Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East.
He also invited Turkish firms to leverage Singapore’s strategic location to tap Asia’s growth. According to the OECD, Asia will see 3.2 billion people moving up to the middle class by 2030, making up nearly 60 per cent of total global consumption. Turkish investment in Singapore came in at S$23 million as of 2012 and there are currently 60 Turkish companies in Singapore.
A business mission was also held in conjunction with Mr Lee’s visit. Trade agency International Enterprise Singapore and the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) led a 20-member strong business delegation to Georgia and Turkey. In a joint statement, IE Singapore and SBF said Turkey offers vast investment opportunities for Singapore firms, particularly in key sectors like consumer electronics, medtech and infrastructure.
To further drive business collaboration with Turkey, IE Singapore has appointed Mr Ibrahim Suha Gucsav, CEO of Akfen Holding, as honorary business representative for Turkey from October. He will act as an “advisor to help bridge the gap between companies of both countries”.