By Nigar Abbasova
The fifth Turkey-Azerbaijan-Georgia business forum kicked off in Istanbul on February 17 bringing together high ranking officials and entrepreneurs of the three countries.
The trilateral business forum is assessed as an important event for boosting cooperation among businessmen and overall relations among the neighboring Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey.
Deputy Economy Minister of Turkey Fatih Metin, addressing the event, said that the countries plan to bolster trilateral economic cooperation and increase the volume of trade turnover to the level of $20 billion.
The trade turnover between the three countries currently amounts to $4.2 billion.
He mentioned that the business forum in the trilateral format is of great importance not only for economic cooperation, but also for strengthening of the countries in social sphere.
Metin said that Ankara seeks elimination of all obstacles that may arise in trade operations between Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
“A free trade agreement between Turkey and Georgia, as well as preferential trade deal between Turkey and Azerbaijan [talks on the deal is currently underway] open wide opportunities for the development of business relations among the countries,” he said.
Metin went on to add that the economic structures of Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan are interchangeable.
“The innovational potential of Turkey, natural and geographic characteristics of Georgia and strong energy infrastructure of Azerbaijan allows to launch a number of joint projects, stipulating the development of the industrial cluster in three countries,” Metin said.
Rona Yırcalı, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Turkish Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEİK), in turn said that the regional dialogue is of pivotal importance in the period of radical changes in the global economic system.
“We, as three neighboring countries should unite our efforts to speed up economic development in our region. Effective economic cooperation between our countries may become a good example for other countries.”
Turkish Minister of Science, Industry and Technology Faruk Ozlu offered to use full potential and advantages for boosting the economic integration.
“Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia enjoy advantageous geographic location. Being located at the center of the world’s energy and transport corridor the countries are considered to serve as “bridge” between West and East,” he said.
Ozlu emphasized that the current level of mutual trade between the three countries does not reflect the existing potential. In tote, national revenues of the three countries amount to $890 billion, while the total volume of foreign trade stands at $363 billion.
Talking about preferential trade agreement between Azerbaijan and Turkey, Ozlu voiced hope that the volume of mutual trade in national currencies of the two countries [the manat and the lira] will be increased in the short run.
“Some 6.5 percent of foreign trade operations of Turkey were implemented in national currencies in 2016. The switch to the use of national currencies will protect businessmen from external financial influences and changes in currency rates,” he clarified.
Turkey actively pushes trade in local currencies with a number of countries, as the country intends to be among the top ten economies in the world by 2023, and strengthen its economy by simplifying and enhancing trade operations with the regional countries.
Turkey ranked the first the list of foreign trade partners of Azerbaijan in 2016, while Georgia became the 12th. So far, Turkey has invested some $7.6 billion in Azerbaijan, while investment of Azerbaijan in the country amounted to $4.7 billion. The volume of trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Turkey stood at $2.3 billion in 2016. The trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Georgia hit $395 million.
The forum also became a stage for the discussion of regional security issues. Addressing the forum, Azerbaijan’s Economy Minister Shahin Mustafayev said that the three countries attach great importance to the issue of regional stability and security.
Talking about aggressive policy pursued by Armenia, Mustafayev said that the country will stand aside from all regional projects until it keeps Azerbaijani lands under occupation. He noted that Armenia violates stability, pursues aggressive policy and has unfair territorial claims on its neighbors.
He also recalled the failed coup attempt in Turkey, saying that the people and the government of Turkey coped with the issue with dignity.
“The crime could violate stability not only in Turkey but also in all regional countries. Dignity of the people of Turkey and the government of the country prevented the crime,” he said.
Nigar Abbasova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @nigyar_abbasova
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