TBY talks to Mehmet Büyükekşi, Chairman of the Turkish Exporters' Assembly (TİM), on achieving export goals for 2023 and the economic shift toward Africa.

Mehmet Büyükekşi
Born in 1961, Mehmet Büyükekşi graduated from Yıldız Technical University’s Faculty of Architecture in 1984 and is currently the Chairman of the Turkish Exporters Assembly (TİM). He is also on the boards at Türk Eximbank, Turkish Airlines, Turkish DO&CO, the Istanbul Development Agency, the Istanbul Leather and Leather Products Exporters’ Association, as well as a member of the Assembly of the Istanbul Chamber of Industry (İSO), and General Coordinator of Ziylan Group.

Turkish exports reached over $150 billion in 2012, a 12.6% increase over the same figure in 2011, but still a long way from Turkey's Vision 2023 goal of $500 billion. How achievable is this goal?

We have a long and difficult road ahead to reach the Vision 2023 goal of $500 billion. But at the same time, we know that the rules of the game for the next 10 years will be different from those in the last 10. Within world trade, the share of developing countries is increasing day by day, and Turkey is advancing toward a much brighter future through the great efforts of dynamic exporters. In order to catch up to the dynamism of the era, we focus on innovation, IT, R&D, entrepreneurship, and, most importantly, skilled human capital. To provide sustainable exports, we work to diversify in new countries and sectors, reach targeted markets of high potential, raise market share, increase the number of exporters, and focus on medium- and high-tech products. In 2023, the machinery, automotive, iron and steel, ready-made garments, and chemicals sectors will leap forward. The machinery sector is targeting $100 billion in exports, while the automotive sector is targeting $75 billion, the iron and steel sector $55 billion in exports, the ready-made garment sector $52 billion, and the chemical sector $50 billion.

As Turkey's diplomatic and economic focus shifts toward Africa, to what extent will the continent become a larger market for Turkish exports over the next decade?

Thanks to our enterprises in our new export markets, our exports to Africa, the Middle East, and other Asian countries are increasing significantly. Owing to market diversification strategies, we increased our exports to African countries 27% in 2012. And over the next decade, focusing on trade delegations, business forums, and new initiatives, Africa will become a larger market for our dynamic exporters.

Iraq is now Turkey's second-largest export market. How would you characterize the potential for Iraq to replace Germany as Turkey's biggest trading partner in 2013?

The business volume of Turkey and Iraq is increasing day by day. For example, in 2000, we didn't have any exports to Iraq. As of 2012, Iraq became our second largest export market. Within a couple of years, we want to increase our trade volume with Iraq to $25 billion. Also, Turkish contractors have a majority role in Iraq. The ongoing resolution process within Turkey on the Kurdish issue and the stabilization in the Middle East will leave a positive impression in our relations and boost the economy in all aspects. On the other hand, Germany has been a very important trade partner for Turkey over the decades, and it will continue to be in the future.

“Germany has been a very important trade partner for Turkey over the decades, and it will continue to be in the future."

To what extent should the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership be a concern for Turkish policy makers?

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will shed light on the content of a Turkey-US free trade agreement (FTA). Removing the duties will increase the volume of trade between Turkey and the US. We are attaching a lot of importance to this process. We will conduct an impact analysis study and, in the forthcoming period, we will announce the progress and share the findings of the study.

To what extent should liberalizing trade in services in the multilateral trading system be a policy priority for Turkey?

We are paying more attention to liberalizing trade in services as well. Turkey's service exports are increasing day by day.

What will be the major sectors showing export growth in 2013?

The olive and olive oil sector, minerals and metals, ships and yachts, leather and leather products, and livestock and aquatic products were the top five export sectors showing growth in 1Q2013. Our leading sectors in exports, namely the automotive and ready-made garment sectors, will be expanding as well. We are focusing on strong growth in all industries.