TBY talks to Mehmet Büyükekşi, Chairman of the Turkish Exporters' Assembly (TİM), on export performance, R&D, and the perception of Turkish brands abroad.

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.

How would you assess Turkey's export performance in 2013?

Our export figures reached $151.8 billion in 2013. Regional increases include 6.6% to the EU, 5.2% to Africa, and 5.% to the Far East. Within this period, the largest export sector was the automotive industry, which had an export volume of $21.3 billion. The sector's exports increased by 13.6%. The chemical segment ranks second, with a total of $17.4 billion, and the apparel sector ranks third with an increase of 8.3% to $17.3 billion. In 2013, the biggest export market for Turkey was Germany with $13.3 billion, while Iraq ranks second on $11.8 billion in exports, and the UK ranked third at $8.6 billion of exports. These top countries are followed by Russia, Italy, France, the US, Spain, China, and the Netherlands. It was a challenging year for world trade in terms global demand for goods; however, due to the improving signs in global trade since 3Q2013, we are expecting improvements in the short term. Therefore, as a result of this recovery, we expect a more favorable export performance from almost all industries in 2014.

How is Turkey working to increase value-added exports and the level of R&D in the country?

The share of R&D spending to national income in Turkey is 0.92%, while it is between 2% and 3% in developed countries. Our Assembly continuously emphasizes the importance of R&D in the process of transformation underway in Turkey, giving support to investments in these fields. We believe that Turkey will move toward its 2023 export targets through value-added exports and the momentum provided by R&D investments. Hence, Turkey has set an R&D spending budget target for 2023 of 3% of GDP. On November 28-30, 2013 in Istanbul, we organized Turkey Innovation Week with over 26,000 participants and welcomed the leading entrepreneurs and creative minds of Turkey and from all over the world. Over these three days, we hosted valuable speakers and experts in science, technology, marketing, design, urban planning, business, industry, and energy, and they shared their knowledge and experience with all the participants.

How is the Turkish Exporters' Assembly (TİM) working to improve the strength of Turkish brands abroad?

To hit Turkey's export target for 2023, we expect to create 10 global brands. With the support of the Ministry of Economy, we are implementing the Turquality project, which will support the ongoing development of these national brands. This project supports 104 brands from 92 firms. We are hoping to support 125 firms up until 2023.

How would you assess Turkey's current progress toward its 2023 goals of $500 billion in exports?

Developing countries' share in world trade 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 with the dynamism of the era, we are focusing on innovation, IT, R&D, entrepreneurship, and, most importantly, skilled human capital. To provide sustainable exports, we are focusing on increasing our market share in current markets, on the diversification of new countries and sectors, on reaching target markets with high potential, and on medium- and high-tech products. Turkey is aiming to reach a GDP of $2 trillion and $500 billion in exports by 2023, potentially emerging as one of the top-10 world economies.