The Turkey-Russia Business Council held its 18th Joint Meeting on 12 October 2016 in Istanbul. The event hosted by DEİK was attended by the Economics Minister of the Republic of Turkey, Nihat Zeybekci, the Energy Minister of the Russian Federation Alexandr Novak, the President of the DEİK/Turkey-Russia Business Council, Tuncay Özilhan, the President of the Russia-Turkey Business Council, Ahmet Palankoyev, and DEİK President Ömer Cihad Vardan.
The Economics Minister of the Turkey, Nihat Zeybekci, characterised the economic relationship between Turkey and Russia as defined less by competition and more by complementary features. He said: "Whatever is not available in Russia can be found in Turkey. Turkish-Russian cooperation is not a simple one plus one equals two, rather, the sum adds up to far more than its individual elements." Before this background, the minister stressed the need for an expansion of trade relations on the basis of energy, raw materials and semi-finished products. According to Zeybekci, Turkey's investments in Russia currently amount to USD 2 billion, while the Turkish contracting sector had realised projects with a total value of USD 65 billion. To overcome current problems, the minister proposed to focus on the Turkish Stream Project and the Akkuyu nuclear power station which constituted significant opportunities. Zeybekci also addressed the issue of a Free Trade Agreement in the near future. Some of the obstacles to trade had already been overcome with an understanding on fresh fruits and vegetables. The FTA negotiations had made important progress. The minister expects the FTA to be signed in the middle to 2017.
The Turkish Economics Minister also appealed for full integration of the two countries in services, public procurement, metallurgy, agriculture and chemicals. It was also planned, he said, to carry out joint Turkish-Russian investments in third countries. But Zeybekci looks further still; the market of the future was not Russia or the countries in Eurasia or the Customs Union. He expects Africa to be the engine of economic growth in the coming years, and suggested to support this development with Russian-Turkish joint ventures. In their bilateral trade, the minister stressed the need to switch from natural gas and raw materials to petrochemicals and other areas that employ high-tech. In this context, Turkey was currently offering the most ambitious investment incentives worldwide, he said.
The Energy Minister of the Russian Federation, Alexandr Novak, said it was beneficial to establish a positive agenda for the development of the two countries' economic and trade relations. Minister Novak reminded the audience that the bilateral trade volume followed an upward trend not so long ago. The visit by the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, to Turkey was proof of the importance accorded to good economic and trade ties. Novak announced as goal a quadrupling of the current annual trade volume to USD 100 billion. He and his Turkish counterpart had signed an agreement on economic cooperation to this effect. He stressed cooperation on energy, metallurgy and transport, and the Turkish Stream Project in particular, and expressed his conviction that bilateral relations would return to normal. According to the Russian minister, issues such as the extension of Rouble-denominated trade, an increase in the number of ferry links, a special visa regime for professional drivers and more flight connections between the countries had also been on the agenda. He had the impression that agreement could be reached in those areas. Novak also addressed a project of interest in particular for Turkish business circles: investments in Turkey by the Russian Direct Investment Fund. Another issue discussed with his Turkish colleague were investment projects in Russia with a focus on the development of high-tech products. There was, however, also a potential for investments and cooperation in petrol, natural gas, education, tourism, petrochemicals and construction projects. The Russian minister emphasised the importance of stability in politics and in economics, and saw the Business Councils as effective actors in the establishment of a constructive dialogue. He expressed his conviction that the activities of Turkish and Russian companies would be mutually beneficial.
DEİK President Ömer Cihad Vardan strongly advocated the Turkish Russian partnership and called for a return to visa-free travel. "As two big players in Eurasia we must cooperate in every field," he said. For the near future, he expects advancements in bilateral relations in a number of areas. In this context he named energy, transport agriculture and livestock farming, industry, construction contracting, science and education. In the name of speedy progress, he appealed to the Russian side to return to the free visa regime prior to its unilateral abolition by Russia. The DEİK President also addressed the important issue of the Turkish Stream Project, and praised Turkey's level-headed diplomacy in the face of adversity. The signing of the Turkish Stream Project after the coup attempt of 15 July sent a message to the world that Turkey remains an attractive destination for investments and a reliable trading partner. Vardan also commented on the outcome of the Energy Summit: "We have defended the position that Turkey's and Russia's importance is not limited to their bilateral ties, but also of consequence for regional stability and regional relationships." Vardan revealed that tourism, agriculture and the construction sector will be among the items to be discussed at the meeting.