Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday said that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) should be “better explained to Turkish entrepreneurs”, adding that the country is “ready to work on that”.
Speaking at the Pakistan-Turkey Business and Investment Forum in Islamabad alongside Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Turkish president, seemingly referring to CPEC, said: “Turkey is not given the same opportunities that are offered to some other countries.”
The Turkish president began his speech by thanking Pakistan for being “wonderful hosts” on his two-day trip. Recounting his official engagements, Erdogan said that yesterday, he had met President Arif Alvi and, today, also had the opportunity to address a joint session of Parliament.
“Hopefully we’ll open the door for new businesses. We wish to raise the level of Pakistan and Turkey’s business relations to the level of our political relations,” he said.
“Currently, our trade is only $800 m which is not acceptable for us. Our mutual population is over 300 million. Therefore, we have to bring our trade to the level we deserve,” he maintained, adding that we cannot allow protectionism to hinder bilateral trade.
“So we should quickly increase our bilateral trade to $1 billion, and then bring it up to $5 billion. We cannot obtain these objectives only through good will, we have to take determined, clear, and strong steps towards our common objectives.”
In Turkey we have 158 companies with Pakistani capital […] we would like to see more such companies, he said. Currently, we have a model in place for offering Turkish citizenship to investors under certain conditions, he added.
“I invite my Pakistani brethren to have confidence in the Turkish economy, we are among the world’s top 20 economies.
“Turkey had a public debt of 72 per cent which we brought down to 30pc. Despite all the attacks, the economic espionage and the regional situation we continued to grow,” he said, stressing on the country’s banking sector and tourism industry.
“We see that Pakistan is taking important steps in facilitating businesses and providing a conducive environment [for them] under the leadership of my brother Imran. We are aware that Pakistan offers a lot of opportunities.
“We have companies of international renown in the fields of defence, transportation, housing, healthcare, and construction,” he stated.
Talking about Turkish serials and dramas which are popular in the country, he said: “Turkish serials that are followed by millions of people abroad are being followed by Pakistanis too, so we should also venture into filmmaking.”
“I have heard that Pakistanis trust western healthcare more, we have to change that.” Turkey is far more advanced than other western countries, with the latest medical advancements and healthcare, he said.
“With our support, and with the efforts of the business community, our economic-social relations will receive the respect it deserves.”
PM assures support for Turkish businesses
Commenting on Turkish president’s address at the joint session of Parliament earlier in the day, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that he [Erdogan] can win the next election in Pakistan.
“I saw the treasury benches thumping their desks as well as the opposition benches,” he said, stressing that the current government will do everything to boost business between the two countries.
In order to achieve this, we need the support of the business community in Pakistan, Khan added.
“Pakistan can learn a lot from Turkey’s tourism industry. Pakistan has untapped potential in terms of tourism but we lack the necessary infrastructure,” he said, adding that Pakistan has been recognised as an ideal tourist destination by several publications.
Inviting Turkey to invest in the country, the premier stated that, under his leadership, Pakistan jumped 28 spots on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index. He also assured to fully facilitate the Turkish business community in their joint ventures with Pakistani companies.
‘Pakistan capable of becoming Asean country’, says PM’s aide
Kicking off the meeting, Adviser to Prime Minister for Commerce, Textile, Industries, Production and Investment Abdul Razzak Dawood welcomed the Turkish visitors to the country.
“The two leaders of the countries have agreed an inclusive agreement including trade, tourism. We have people from construction, engineers, and people from all professions, God willing we will take [this business relationship] forward,” he said.
“The two countries had meetings in Davos and we have now reached an understanding. As a final followup, we have signed an understanding on the way forward. Both sides will do a study on what is each other’s relative strength. This study will be completed by March and then we will take it forward in April.”
He added that a textile delegation will go to Turkey and to look at how to further the business. We have a great opportunity to work together, we do compete but like good brothers there is no harm in […] taking things forward, he added.
“We are now capable of becoming an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) country and we will be the closest Asean country to Turkey,” he said, adding that this visit will eventually lead to more trade between the two countries.
Earlier in the day, Erdogan addressed a joint session of Parliament in Islamabad — for a record fourth time — during which he reiterated his country’s support for Pakistan and its stance on the Kashmir issue.
The Turkish president is expected to meet Imran for discussions on bilateral, regional and global issues.
The two will co-chair the sixth meeting of the Pakistan-Turkey High Level Strategic Cooperation Council (HLSCC), which steers the bilateral relationship and are also set to speak at a joint press conference.
Later, there will be a signing ceremony of the memorandums of understanding and accords finalised during the meeting.
Imran is expected to invite Turkey to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). He had said in an interview with a Turkish newswire: “We hope to involve them in using CPEC for further connectivity, and we hope to involve Turkey in this [CPEC]”.
The Turkish leader last visited Pakistan in 2016, during the PML-N-led government, during which he also addressed the Parliament.
PTI lawmakers had boycotted the session to protest against the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif for his alleged corruption.
President Alvi meets Erdogan
In his first official engagement of the two-day visit, the Turkish leader held a meeting with President Arif Alvi, which was followed by a banquet. President Erdogan and Turkish First Lady Emine Erdoğan were received by President Alvi and his wife Samina Alvi as they arrived at the Aiwan-i-Sadr.
During their wide-ranging talks, President Alvi extended a warm welcome to President Erdogan and expressed satisfaction over the level of multifaceted engagement between Pakistan and Turkey, according to a press release issued by the President’s Secretariat.
President Alvi apprised his Turkish counterpart of the “worsening human rights situation” in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir and thanked President Erdogan for his “principled stand” on the issue of Kashmir, the tweets said.
The two presidents also exchanged views on regional and international issues, with President Alvi highlighting Pakistan’s efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. He stressed that the world community should extend its help in Afghanistan’s post-conflict reconstruction.
According to the press release, both leaders underlined the significance of the historic bilateral relationship between Pakistan and Turkey in diverse areas including politics, economy, culture, defence and people-to-people contacts. They underscored the importance of fully realising the potential of this relationship and transforming it into a “strong and dynamic trade and economic partnership”.
President Alvi and Erdogan also agreed that Pakistan and Turkey “must continue to work closely to counter challenges facing the Ummah, including Islamophobia”, the statement said.