Macedonia and Turkey increasing trade ties

06/02/2014

Experts said there is an untapped potential to further economic co-operation between the two countries.

By Miki Trajkovski and Menekse Tokyay for Southeast European Times in Skopje and Istanbul -- 06 /02/14

photo

Turkey's government delegation was led by Deputy Prime Minister Emrullah Isler (fifth from right) during a visit to Macedonia. [Facebook/NGruevski]

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Emrullah Isler visited Skopje last month and met with Macedonia Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski to discuss ways to continue strengthening bi-lateral relations and increase economic and trade ties, officials said.

Gruevski said the government's goal is to continue to ensure there is a business climate that makes Macedonia an attractive destination for Turkish investors.

"Macedonia is open to Turkish investors, which can be concluded by the investments of many Turkish companies so far," Gruevski said.

Macedonian officials made a presentation outlining the advantages Macedonia offers to investors, from low taxes, inexpensive land and a competitive labour force to benefits for production facilities.

Isler said Turkey's government has actively encouraged interest among the Turkish business community and will continue to do so.

Turkey is Macedonia's eighth-largest trading partner, and Turkish businessmen have invested about 1 billion euros in Macedonia in the food, construction and services sectors.

Last month, the Turkish milk producer Sutas announced it will increase its investment in Macedonia and double its production.

There are great opportunities for Turkish investors in Macedonia's textile and agriculture sectors as well as in electrical power plants, said Hasan Hosben, head of the Macedonian-Turkish Business Council under Turkey's Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEIK).

"Relations between the two countries can be even better thanks to the good relations between the two governments," Hosben told SETimes.

Hosben said there is a need to conclude an agreement between the two countries' central banks to address the issue of conversion of the Macedonian and Turkish currencies to avoid money transfer problems.

Turkish investors are generally satisfied, but say the application process for housing and office space licences for the experts they invite to join the investment projects should be improved, said Huseyin Burge, member of Turkish parliament who heads the Turkish-Macedonian inter-parliamentary friendship group.

"Such issues are focused on to be solved in the shortest possible time, jointly, with good will and a pragmatic approach," Burge said.

Burge said the preparation for the legal infrastructure for business and trade relations are completed and there are no legal obstacles of any kind.

"The regular contacts between economic delegations and presence at trade export fairs should also be mentioned," Burge said.

There still is a great untapped potential and the hope is that more Turkish companies will enter Macedonia and use it as a base to conduct operations in the region, said Ruzdi Mufti, former president of the Chamber of Commerce of Turkish Businessmen from Macedonia.

"What we can expect next is investments by medium Turkish enterprises employing 50 people, not solely large companies," Mufti said.

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Mufti said one way to increase mutual benefits is to develop twinning relations between Macedonian and Turkish municipalities and cities.

Ohrid municipality has a twin relationship with Gaziosmanpasa, Istanbul's biggest municipality.

"We have areas that are ecologically very pure, not polluted. Eco-food is our future. But we have to prove that and invest in production. If we do that, we will fulfil our goal," Mufti said.

What can the Macedonian authorities do to attract Turkish investments? Share your opinion in the comments space.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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