Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey

Obstacles must be eliminated in the Islamic world

01.04.2015 / İstanbul

Speaking at the Turkish Arab Economic Forum, TOBB President and ICCIA (Islamic Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture) Vice President M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu stressed the fact that the world is undergoing an important transformation, “This transformation process must be turned into grace and shared profit by us.” Urging that obstacles to commerce, beginning with visas, be eliminated, Hisarcıklıoğlu said, “Not just between Turkey and the Arab League, but liberalization must take place among the whole Islamic world.”​
The Turkish Arab Economic Forum was held at the İstanbul Four Seasons Bosphorus Hotel with the attendances of TOBB President and ICCIA (Islamic Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture) Vice President M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu, Minister of the Treasury Mehmet Şimşek, Al-Iktissad Wal – Aamal Group CEO Faysal Abou Zaki, Arab League Ambassador Mohammed Fateh Al-Naceri as well as many Turkish and Arab businesspeople.

In his speech Hisarcıklıoğlu stated that the world has been undergoing a rapid economic and political transformation for the last 6 years and said, “This change is felt more in our region. Of course, each transformation process is painful. We, the Turkish private sector, view the tumultuous period we are undergoing to be the birthing pains of a new era for our region.”

Emphasizing the need for cooperation, Hisarcıklıoğlu said that standing united would bring grace and prosperity, “Then will our region become stable and prosperous. We have lived together for centuries as Turks and Arabs. We have formed a way of life together. We share cultural values deeply rooted in a long history. We understand each other more readily than any other peoples. Most importantly, our faith makes us brothers. This transformation process must be turned into grace and shared profit by us.

Unfortunately we have been unable to properly implement an ideal cooperation between us. The Arab region stretching from the Atlantic to Basra encompasses a population of 370 million and annual production volume of 2.9 trillion USD; this is extraordinary power. Turkey, with a population of 78 million and a GNP of 800 billion USD is the largest economy and the largest industrial country of the region. We are one of the largest economies in the fields of construction, tourism and agriculture. Moreover we hold the most important resources of energy in the region. We generate a great amount of capital from these resources. We stand at the center of global crossroads in terms of energy and trade. Allah has been generous to us in blessings and opportunities. Despite all this, we have been found lacking in our duty. We have been unable to bring prosperity and stability to our region. We have been unable to sufficiently develop trade relations amongst ourselves.”

- Can’t clap with a single hand

Providing information in regards to the trade between Arab states as opposed to the trade they have with the outside, Hisarcıklıoğlu reported that Arab states conduct only 7% of their total trade among themselves while the European Union conducts 45% of its trade internally. “This is the cooperation which brings the west prosperity. As the Arab proverb goes: A single hand can’t clap. That is what we are trying to do, to clap with only one hand. The time has come to use both hands. I can see the same hope in all of your eyes. If we believe in each other, I know that we can succeed in this.”

- How do we strengthen economic cooperation?

Stating that the first condition necessary to increase economic cooperation to the level they desire is to prepare the legislative environment necessary to accomplish this task, Hisarcıklıoğlu stated that there should be no obstacles to the movement of people, capital, goods and services between countries, “We call each other brother yet we do none of the things which would make us brothers.”

TOBB President and ICCIA Vice President M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu said, “In our culture, brothers enter each other’s house not with visas but with greetings.” Stating that the free movement of goods is almost as important as the free movement of people, Hisarcıklıoğlu emphasized the importance of the completion of the Turkey-Gulf Cooperation Council FTA negotiations, “This will strengthen our cooperation. Not just between Turkey and the Arab League but the Islamic world as a whole. How long will we delay the TPS-OIC? Turkey is ready for cooperation, not just in terms of trade but also investment.”

- Turkey’s economic power

Pointing out that Turkey is greatly experienced in the fields of industry, tourism, construction and agriculture, Hisarcıklıoğlu stated that they are among the most powerful countries in these sectors. Drawing attention to the fact that the banking sector in Turkey has become a brand unto itself, Hisarcıklıoğlu said, “Following the 2008 global economic crisis, while all the countries were pouring resources into their banking systems, our banks didn’t need a single cent from us. The capital adequacy ratio of the Turkish banking system is over 15% at the moment. This is more than twice that of most other countries. Turkey’s wealth of experience in these regards, combined with the capital accumulation of the Arabian geography, will bring about untold opportunities.  We must recognize these opportunities well and take advantage of them.”

- G20 and B20 endeavors

Providing information in regards to their G20 and B20 endeavors, Hisarcıklıoğlu said, “Another avenue of cooperation we can pursue is to be found in third countries, working together globally. In this regard, B20 endeavors are very important. Turkey is the Term President for the G20. The business arm of the G20 is the B20, of which I am the term president.”

TOBB President and ICCIA Vice President M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu reported that they are working on trade, infrastructure and investments, financing growth, employment and the fight against corruption as well as SMEs and entrepreneurship as a part of this process. Stating that they will bring the leaders of these countries with the representatives of these business communities, Hisarcıklıoğlu said that they would be relaying their suggestions for solutions to various problems.

- Islamic finance system

Hisarcıklıoğlu reported that the first regional B20 meeting was held in Saudi Arabia wherein they briefed western attendees in regards to the Islamic Finance System by the Financing and Infrastructure committees.

“The goal is to provide Islamic finance resources to the search for financing for infrastructure in various parts of the world. Join us and take your place under this roof. Support us. Help us to find solutions and preserve our joint opportunities.

The new Arab generation must be raised as entrepreneurs. Because entrepreneurship means prosperity. The key to Turkey’s success in the last 30 years has been Turkish entrepreneurs. As the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey and B20 Turkey, we are ready to provide all the support our experience and network can bring to you in this regard.”

- Minister of the Treasury Mehmet Şimşek

Minister of the Treasury Mehmet Şimşek stated that if the peace process is carried out to completion, Turkey’s GNP could increase 1% each year and that it would benefit the whole region.

Şimşek stated that oil prices are an important issue but that it is necessary to see past all the transient issues of the region.

Minister Şimşek stated that Turkish and Arabians business people are working diligently to overcome difficulties in a difficult time for business.

Emphasizing the importance of basic rights and freedoms, increased democratic standards as well as balanced and consistent policy for overcoming the issues present in the region, Şimşek stressed the importance of enabling the access to finances of SMEs.

Şimşek went on to state the importance of education, infrastructure and R&D for the continued development and prosperity of the region.

- Al-Iktissad Wal – Aamal Group CEO Abou Zaki, Arab League Ambassador Al-Naceri

Al-Iktissad Wal – Aamal Group CEO Faysal Abou Zaki stated that despite various problems during the first years of the Forum, they have succeeded in forming strategic and rational development for long term Turkish and Arab joint goals.

Touching on Turkey’s efforts to stabilize Yemen, Abou Zaki stated that this illustrates the importance of joint efforts between turkey and the Arab countries.

Arab League Ambassador Mohammed Fateh Al-Naceri reported that the Arab League General Secretariat has been following the Forum closely since 2005 and that they are greatly pleased with the results.

Al-Naceri stated that political disagreements cannot overshadow meetings to strengthen economic cooperation, and went on to say that the instability in the Arab world yet persists and that their only goal is to ensure a secure environment.

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