First Business Forum of the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA) was held in Istanbul on March 1, 2017 in Istanbul.Afghan Minister of Trade and Industry Humayoon Rasaw, Turkish Deputy Minister of Economy Fatih Metin, DEİK President Ömer Cihad Vardan andDEİK/Turkey-Afghanistan Business Council Preseident Sadi Yalçın have attended the Forum. The Forum was coordinated by the Ministry of Economy and organized by DEİK and Recca. The agenda of the Forum were the restoration process of Afghanistan and business communities' role in the process. Energy, natural resources and Private-Public Sector Partnerships were discussed during the Forum by Afghan and Turkish communities' business communities.

Afghan Minister of Trade and Industry Humayoon Rasawindicated RECCA has become a foundation of energy, transportation, communication, trade and intercompany partnerships with the participation of states and institutions. Afghanistan government is working to make the country a center to connect Middle Asia, Middle East and China, as a result, Lapis Lazuli Agreement is in progress to involve 5 countries in the projects of energy, infrastructure and communication.

Afghanistan has been through an economic reform process and is now getting ready to be a member of World Trade Organization (WTO). He added "We need to maximize our efforts. Communication between companies under the roof of RECCA will enable companies to get support from both public and private sectors. Now is the time for action". He signified the business opportunities in the fields of trade, infrastructure, connectivity, mining, agriculture, transportation, private and public sector partnerships in special economic areas.

Turkish Deputy Minister of Economy Fatih Metin reminded Turkey and Afghanistan have been friends for a long time, furthermore, Afghanistan is the first country to recognize Turkish Republic's independence. He was glad to be all together on March 1st which is the Turkey-Afghanistan Friendship day and he drew attention to the significance of Business Forum of RECCA. Deputy Minister Metin underlined that more than 300 company representatives got together during the Forum and this will contribute to the development of economic relations. He added "Integration to global economy is necessary for a nation to recover. We've initiated "Istanbul for Afghanistan" movement to make Afghanistan a secure and sustainable country. And now, we will help Afghanistan's global integration. Afghanistan has preceded a lot in the past 15 years and every global economy is responsible to build a bright future for Afghanistan".

"Training in the Construction Sector" project in Afghanistan, initiated by DEİK and İntes, has been supported by Ministry of Economy. Up until today, Turkish construction companies completed 627 projects with total worth of 6 billion USD. Turkish companies would want to contribute more in electricity, natural gas transmission projects. Lapis Lazuli Project is being worked on by RECCA and it will enable Afghanistan-Turkmenistan-Caspian Sea- Azerbaijan- Turkey corridor. As a result of the project, transportation infrastructure will get stronger decreasing trade cost at least by 10% until 2020. This will also enable regional integration and increase welfare level.

DEİK President Ömer Cihad Vardan expressed Turkish business community will be a key player in the restoration process of Afghanistan through stronger regional collaboration. Not only Turkey but all countries and business communities of the region should unite to build Afghanistan. Forum will help to start a new chapter in Afghanistan's restoration, "We believe that economy and trade are the guarantee of trust, welfare and sustainability in the region. Afghanistan's revival will also be beneficial to Afghanistan's neighboring countries and to Asia to the largest extent".

Turkey-Afghanistan Trade Figures (Ministry of Economy-2016)

Turkish export to Afghanistan: 146 million USD

Main export items:Textile raw materials, industrial chemical products, machinery and mechanical devices, various finished goods

Turkish import from Afghanistan: 9 million USD

Main import items: Leather, animal products, herbal products, raw materials for weaving and manufactured goods

Trade Volume: 155 million USD

Trade Balance: 136 million USD

Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEİK)