The 1st Turkey – Gulf Cooperation Council Business Forum started at the Istanbul Four Seasons Hotel hosted by the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) President M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu in cooperation with the Federation of the Gulf Cooperation Council Chambers (FGCCC) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).​


Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey

The 7 richest countries of the Islam world met in Istanbul

06.02.2012 / İstanbul

The 1st Turkey – Gulf Cooperation Council Business Forum started at the Istanbul Four Seasons Hotel hosted by the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) President M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu in cooperation with the Federation of the Gulf Cooperation Council Chambers (FGCCC) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).​


Attending the Forum in addition to the TOBB President Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu, Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan and the Minister of Customs and Commerce Hayati Yazıcı were many ministers, high level administrators and business world representatives from Turkey and Gulf countries.

During the opening speech TOBB President M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu stated that they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Federation of Gulf Cooperation Council Chambers in order to establish more institutional relations with the Gulf region’s business world.

“For us, the Gulf countries are very important both in terms of commerce and relations with the Islam world,” said TOBB President Hisarcıklıoğlu and went on, “In order to rapidly increase our business relations, we are focused on tangible and productive partnerships. In this context, I hope that the first Turkey – Gulf Cooperation Council Business Forum will result in prosperity, plenty and new partnerships.”

- “Feel at home here”

Stating that this is the first time they are together in such circumstances, Hisarcıklıoğlu went on, “As the Turkish business world this is very gratifying. I can honestly say that you can feel at home here. Because we view you not as friends but, as brothers. We are happy to be with you, to work with you.”

- “Work more, talk less”

Emphasizing that both in his own work and as the President of TOBB, he exercises the principle of “work more, talk less”, Hisarcıklıoğlu said, “Praise be to Allah, I see that we have followed the right path to get where we are today. Behold the European Union struggles with a big financial crisis. Close to a year they have been holding meetings to try and find a solution to the crisis. However, despite all these meetings there have been no concrete steps taken, the crisis has become stronger instead of weaker. As time was lost in debating instead of working the crisis spread to more countries.”

- “We have spoken much but done little in terms of cooperation as the Islam world”

Stating that time is money, TOBB President said, “According to our faith, one of the most important things we’ll have to account for on the day of judgment is how we spent the time and life we were give. Let us ask ourselves. As the Islam world, as the opinion leaders of the Islam world, can we in all honesty answer this question? Unfortunately, as the Islam world, we have spoken much but done little in terms of cooperation. We have not utilized our great power and potential. We are living the consequences of it. I’ve said it before: 21 of the least developed 48 countries of the world are Islam countries. Today, the difference between the richest and the poorest is the most obvious in Islamic countries. Today, the countries struggling with famine are Islamic countries. The countries were brother sheds the blood of brother are Islamic countries.

Weren’t we the followers of the Prophet who said, ‘We will not sleep on full stomachs while our neighbor starves’? Aren’t we the members of a religion that states that ‘all believers are brothers’? The basic underlying reason for the state of the Islamic geography is the fact that we do not cooperate with each other. We do not move in unison. While we learned the meaning of the saying, ‘Prosperity in unity, anguish in dissent’. The best example of that was seen in Somalia.

I’ll say it clearly; this is all of our responsibility. We, none of us, can account for this in the next life where we will have to answer to divine authority! This doesn’t run in our blood. This cannot stand if we are true to our faith! In this period when the world is entering a new phase of change, we must take advantage of opportunities. We must increase cooperation among us and spread the wealth. We must break the chains on our minds.”

- “The cost of conflict and tension for the Middle East is 12 trillion Dollars”

Stating that in the last 50-60 years, there have been 2 major changes the world has gone through, Hisarcıklıoğlu said and went on, “The first of these was WWII and the polarization of the world order. The second was the fall of the Soviet Union at the beginning of the 90’s and globalization. We are now experiencing the third process of change. The political balance in the world and the economic mentality is undergoing change. We, as the Islamic geography, were not able to take advantage of the first two processes. We were content with what we had. We lacked vision for the future. We thought we would be happy where we were. The cost of conflict and tension in the Middle East has amounted to 12 trillion Dollars since 1991. If we had used these resources correctly, we could have made this geography the center of prosperity. The responsibility for this, to a large degree, lies with those in this hall. Because Turkey and the Gulf Cooperation Council member states are the 7 largest Islam countries in the world!”

- “The trade volume between Turkey and the Gulf Cooperation Council States is only 12 billion Dollars”

Stating that there is great potential Hisarcıklıoğlu went on, “Allah has seen fit to fill this land with treasure, both on the ground and below it. Turkey is the 9th largest country in the world in terms of arable land. The land is very plentiful. All four seasons can be experienced at any one time in our country. The conditions are suitable for growing any kind of crops. Turkey has the potential to feed the whole region. The Gulf region is the richest region of the world in term of energy resources, with half of the total of the world’s petroleum resources found here. More than anything, there is an enormous untapped human resource in Turkey and the Gulf region. In terms of trained personnel and young population, we have a huge resource.

Then what is missing? The only thing that’s missing is the fact that we have not been able increase the cooperation between us. Can you imagine, even though we say we are the 7 richest countries of the Islam geography and despite our 1.3 trillion Dollar foreign trade volume, the trade between Turkey and the Gulf Cooperation Council states only amounts to 12 billion Dollars? That is only 1%.”

- “If we wish to bring riches and prosperity to the region then we must first increase the trade between us”

Saying, “We want to further all relations with Gulf countries,” TOBB President stated, “We hope to contribute to the region’s stability, security and prosperity by strengthening our economic relations. Because lasting peace and stability is our shared goal with our Arab brothers in these lands that we all share. If we wish to bring riches and prosperity to the region then we must first increase the trade between us. It was our Revered Prophet who said, ‘Trade, for nine tenths of livelihood is found there.’

In this regard, we as the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey are making a great deal of effort to this end. We are ready to take on any duty that befalls us. On the one hand we are strengthening cooperation with the chamber systems of the Islamic Cooperation Council member states and increasing our accumulation. On the other hand we are following a similar process with the Balkan countries, increasing cooperation with the Middle East and the Gulf region while increasing our investments in North Africa. As TOBB, we are sharing our experiences, relating our experiences in the organized industry zones to our brothers. In the field of transportation and the workings of commerce exchanges, we are acting as examples to these countries. In this matter, we are working closely with the Islamic Development Bank and the Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

- “Can’t a person enter his brother’s house?”

TOBB President Hisarcıklıoğlu, emphasizing that feelings of fraternity must be crowned with commercial gain, said, “We say that we are brothers, but we can’t even enter each other’s countries without visas. Can’t a person enter his brother’s house?

We can’t market our goods to each other easily, we can’t trade. Let us take solid steps. Let us mobilize rapidly. Let us ensure that visas are lifted and the Free Trade Agreement is signed with all due haste.”

Stating that natural resources do not make the people rich, Hisarcıklıoğlu said, “Natural resources only make governments richer. The only way to make the people richer is investing and commerce. That is why we must make every effort to remove obstacles to investment and commerce.”

- Turkey’s economy has undergone significant transformation and change

Hisarcıklıoğlu stated that democracy, freedom of enterprise, religion, conscience, expression and the partnership mentality of the public and private have been influential in the change and transformation Turkey’s economy has undergone.

The TOBB President went on, “The late Özal, when he came to power 30 years ago told us to go out into the world, to trade; that he would lower customs and remove quotas; that we were free to buy and sell. Thirty years ago, Turkey was a country that exported 3 billion Dollars. There was no industry to speak of and 95% of its exports were agriculture goods. Now we export 3 billion Dollars’ worth in just a week. Today, Turkey exports 135 billion Dollars’ worth and over 90% of it is industrial goods.

We market 20,000 products to over 200 countries. More than half of our exports are made to Europe and the Americas. Today, one in every three TVs sold in Europe and one in every four home appliances in Europe is Turkish goods.

The Turkish industrialist has come to the point where we are exporting automobiles to the birthplace of the automotive industry, the USA. Where, 30 years ago, 300,000 tourists visited Turkey, today we host 36 million a year. We are one of the top 7 most preferred tourist destinations in the world. In the field of logistics, we field the second largest overland transportation fleet in the world after the USA. The second largest construction power in the world after China’s is ours, having successfully completed 6,500 projects amounting to 205 billion Dollars in 93 countries. To this day we have completed 384 projects worth 31 billion Dollars in the Gulf countries. Today, we Turkey has the largest industrial production capability between Italy and China, is the world’s 17th and Europe’s 6th largest economy. Today, Turkey has produced its own unmanned aerial vehicle prototype. We have produced our own satellite and put it in orbit.

Europe’s fastest growing country in 2010 with a growth rate of 8.9%, Turkey is one of the seven countries whose credit score went up during the global crisis. Turkey was the world’s fastest growing country in the first three quarters of 2011 with 9.6% growth. Fifty years ago, our citizens migrated to Europe to find employment. Now, Greek youth are applying to Turkish firms for employment.”

- “Turkey is an island of political and economic stability”

“I do have one complaint,” said Hisarcıklıoğlu, “For the last 10 years, Turkey has been an island of political and economic stability. It is one of the fastest growing countries in the world. Despite this only 30 billion Dollars’ worth of investment has been made to Turkey out of the 2.5 trillion’s worth of Gulf investment funds. Only 0.1%.”

- “Women entrepreneurs should be supported by all of us”

Pointing out the establishment of the Turkish-Arab Businesswomen’s Council for providing a stronger cooperation platform to the main actors of economy, women, Hisarcıklıoğlu stated that a Memorandum of Understanding would be signed between the Arab Businesswomen’s Council and the TOBB Women Entrepreneurs Council.

Stressing that women entrepreneurs must be supported, Hisarcıklıoğlu went on, “We all follow in the example of our Revered Prophet. Then I ask you what did the wife of our Revered Prophet, Hatice do? Was she not one of the largest traders of Mecca? Why can’t we bring up our women to be entrepreneurs like our Revered Prophet did? We must all support women entrepreneurs to the best of our abilities.”

- Customs and Commerce Minister Yazıcı

Customs and Commerce Minister Hayati Yazıcı stated that Turkey is among the region’s and the world’s important players with the reform programs they’ve enacted in the Gulf Cooperation Countries. Stating that Turkey, with its political stability and trust in the last 10 years, has achieved significant and permanent successes in despite the global crisis.

Regarding the Free Trade Agreement, Yazıcı said, “Turkey and the Gulf Cooperation Council should hasten the preparations for the Free Trade Agreement and sign it as soon as possible. I will point out once again that this is a necessity. Our shared efforts will lend impetus to bilateral investments and open the way for the private sector.”

- Economy Minister Çağlayan

The Minister of Economy, Zafer Çağlayan stated that the combined yearly GNP is approximately 2 trillion Dollars, total export volume 1.1 trillion Dollars and imports volume of 650 billion Dollars and a total foreign trade volume of 1.8 trillion Dollars.

Stating that the solution to the global crisis is through global cooperation, Çağlayan said, “One of our important proverbs states that ‘the hand is superior to the hand; the mind is superior to the mind’. We wish to share our knowledge and experiences with you.”

- FGCCC President Kamel

The President of the Federation of GCC (FGCCC) Sheikh Saleh Kamel stated that Turkey is a sibling country and that they have accomplished a significant leap in every field including economy.

Stating that the world and Islam countries are closely following Turkey’s successes, Kamel said, “Turkey is the most successful, noteworthy and praiseworthy among the Islam countries. I am truly gratified by and proud of Turkey’s success.”

Kamel stated that Gulf countries would “save time” if they were to benefit from Turkey’s experience.

Pointing out that Turkey has been aiding African countries as well, Kamel thanked Turkey for its sensitivity.

- Gulf Cooperation Council Deputy Secretary General Al-Shibli

The Gulf Cooperation Council Deputy Secretary General Abdullah bin Juma Al-Shibli stated the importance of this meeting for his country.

Stating that the balances of power all over the world and in all fields are changing, Al-Shibli said, “All countries are making economic enterprises, putting great importance on bilateral trade. In this regard, we are looking for new avenues of cooperation and partnership. Feasibility work and bilateral projects should be produced. We must advance our economies.”

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