TBY talks to the chairpersons of two major foreign chambers of commerce on their roles, the challenges to increasing trade, and prevalent trends.
In what ways does your chamber assist its members?
RAHŞAN CEBE Put simply, we are the voice of American business in Turkey. We try to improve American business operations in Turkey. We help them press their interests with the Turkish government, and stay focused on their priorities. That’s our job.
JONATHAN BEARD We have a comprehensive databank. When somebody is looking for a partner, we can bring up 15 possibilities. We travel all around the country and tell the chairman of the chambers of commerce and industry that their members may be members of our chamber and utilize our resources. Our networking events are also a significant opportunity to build relations. For example, the Lord Mayor of the City of London was one of our guests. Any one of our members can use these opportunities to meet people at the highest levels.
What are the main challenges to further increasing trade levels between the country you represent and Turkey?
RC We’d like to see much stronger protection for intellectual property (IP) rights; that’s one of our priorities. We believe in strong brands, and although this government has made some positive changes, we’d like greater clarity regarding IP as a strategic and not a tactical concern. We’re glad to see a robust dialogue regarding GM foods—this issue will only become more pressing with time. But our number one priority now is IP.
JB The obstacle for British companies investing in Turkey is not Turkey. It is British companies’ lack of knowledge about Turkey. They don’t know how to exactly and efficiently look around for dynamic business partners. Look at the number of British businesses in the Gulf region, in Greece, and Singapore, and then look at the number of British businesses in Turkey. Then, look at other countries. There is failure in Greece, overflow in Singapore, and disastrous events of over-investment without solid foundations in the Gulf. None of that applies here in Turkey.
What trends can you identify in trade?
RC Energy is big at the moment. Real estate is also strong, as are financial services and tourism. We are a young organization, just six years old, but growing. During my term as Chairwoman, we’ve increased our membership by 30%. The future looks bright.
JB The multinationals are here in force. They occupy positions at the top of each sector they are in. HSBC and Vodafone are among the top companies in Turkey. BP and Shell are among the top oil companies, Aviva is amongst the top insurance companies—and these are all British firms. We see that these multinationals have come in very strong. They don’t come in because of Turkey alone, but because they are huge multinational institutions. Their agenda is different. When we come down, we see a big empty area. There are many SMEs that form part of the larger industrial picture. It is vital that we create more awareness amongst SMEs. There is an opportunity for Britain to be as strong as any trading and investment partner in Turkey. We shall help to develop this at our chamber.
© The Business Year