MÜSIAD’s ‘economic diplomacy’ enhances Türkiye’s trade potential

In an effort to boost the export potential of Anatolian cities and attract more international investments, one of Türkiye’s top business groups has launched a diplomacy initiative featuring visits to provinces across the country by ambassadors, demonstrating their production capacity on-site.

To date, the Independent Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association’s (MÜSIAD) “Anatolian Economic Diplomacy” project has conducted visits to 10 provinces, where ambassadors and their teams held talks and inspected exporting companies.

The Turkish Exporters Assembly’s (TIM) monthly and yearly export announcements share not only the figures for leading sectors, but also highlight the performance of individual provinces. The initiative to incentivize provinces conducting their maiden overseas shipments appears to be yielding positive results.

Currently, all 81 provinces in Türkiye are positioned as export cities. However, the January-November data showed that Bayburt, despite being in the early stages, has achieved only $28,000 (TL 827,386) in foreign sales. In contrast, Istanbul made exports worth nearly $90 billion in the same period.

The overarching goal is to increase the number of provinces exceeding $1 billion in exports. More than 30 provinces achieved this mark in the first 11 months.

With December exports, the billion-dollar club is expected to expand further. Considering the aim to conclude the year with over $255 billion in exports, planning to reach $500 billion in the long term, every effort to integrate each province into the billion-dollar export club is valuable.

Key role of exports

For Türkiye, which distinguishes itself from distant Asian countries like China through quality production and stands out for its proximity to the primary market, the European Union, exports play a crucial role in achieving growth goals. Therefore, there is a need to scale outbound shipments and increase the number of exporting companies.

Led by President Mahmut Asmalı, MÜSIAD’s initiative seems to address this need.

Initiated in 2021 under the leadership of Osman Nuri Önügören, head of the MÜSIAD Diplomatic Relations Commission, the project has transformed into concrete steps to boost the exports of Anatolian cities through the first provincial visits in early 2023.

The Diplomatic Relations Commission constantly visits embassies, consulates and foreign missions to inform and enlighten them about Turkish companies. With the “Anatolian Economic Diplomacy,” these interactions take a step further by hosting foreign diplomats in various cities of Türkiye.

On-site visits

The extent to which envoys explore the country beyond the capital and how they contribute to the development of mutual economic and trade relationships is not a straightforward measure.

Önügören emphasizes that the primary goal of the project is to attract more international investments and increase exports. By involving ambassadors and Anatolian city visits, he says they have precisely selected provinces that align with this goal.

“In the 21st century, the language of trade has increasingly begun to transform into a form of economic diplomacy. Creating awareness about our provinces and their potential is facilitated through the visits of the ambassadors,” said Önügören.

As part of the project, 10 ambassadors have visited 10 provinces to date. The last trip included a visit by Italian Ambassador Giorgio Marrapodi and his team to the northwestern province of Bursa.

The Bursa program featured speeches and presentations about ways to increase mutual investments and trade between the two countries, before the delegation visited the province’s Governor Mahmut Demirtaş.

Demirtaş described Bursa’s industrial infrastructure, its unique features in tourism, and its status as a fruit paradise.

The delegation went on to visit factories and facilities with high potential to contribute to the economic relations between Italy and Türkiye, particularly in textiles, machinery and technology.

Closer understanding

Speaking to reporters about the initiative and its impact, Önügören recalled a visit by the Nigerian ambassador to Çorum.

“The ambassador saw that a farming machine, similar to the one Nigeria bought from Germany, was also produced in Çorum. While still inside the factory, he called the Nigerian company and provided information. He brought the two companies together,” he said.

“We had a similar situation with the ambassador of Hungary in Samsun. We visited Kayseri with the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). After that visit, the ambassador connected 35 companies from Kayseri with various companies in his country.”

Önügören said their goal is to introduce, explain and bring together the export potential and competitive aspects, product qualities and company infrastructures of the provinces to the most competent representatives of foreign states in Türkiye to increase economic relations further.

“In this context, we directly invite the ambassador of the relevant country to our province and host their teams, especially the commercial attache,” he added. “Our guest ambassador introduces their country, directs future purchasing delegations, business people in search of commercial partnerships and those willing to invest in these provinces.”

He suggested that Turkish entrepreneurs gain a closer understanding of these countries, visit them to develop and increase business cooperation, open offices and buy or sell products.

“Introducing Türkiye’s economic strategies through Anatolian Economic Diplomacy will contribute significantly to trade, agriculture, industry, service sector, education, health and gourmet tourism,” said Önügören.

“While also introducing the local cuisine, it provides the opportunity to observe firsthand the potential for international students, tourism and health tourism, as well as regional products in agriculture and the export potential in all commercial sectors.”

Cities visited so far:

Nigerian ambassador – Çorum

UAE ambassador – Kayseri

Hungarian ambassador – Samsun

Rwandan ambassador – Gebze

South Sudan ambassador – Niğde

New Zealand ambassador – Gaziantep

Ambassadors of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – Hatay

Indian ambassador – Denizli

Italian ambassador – Bursa

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