Interview: Abdullah Gül
How can Turkey and Indonesia, the world’s leading moderate Muslim-majority nations, play a role in the development of relations between East and West?
ABDULLAH GÜL: The age we live in requires new approaches to international and inter-communal relations. We need programmes that aim to collaborate, harmonise and synthesise varying cultures, and to build upon the common wisdom and achievements of humanity. We must show that diversity is not a weakness but a source of strength. As cohabitants of the same planet, we should unite in a common understanding of “world citizenship”.
This is increasingly important in today’s globalised world. The international community is more interconnected than ever and has become a “small village” in many ways. The world is now in such a delicate balance that no country or region can be immune from the problems of others and no single actor can enact significant change alone. International solidarity and cooperation have become essential in tackling common challenges. We need to better understand each other in order to make the best use of our collective efforts.
Turkey is a democratic, secular country based on universal values and has historical, social, ethnic, religious and cultural links with almost every nation within a three-hour flight from Istanbul. As such, Turkey forms an essential link between these diverse cultures. In this regard, we are keen to promote peaceful co-existence, dialogue, mutual respect, friendship, harmony and cooperation between different cultures and faiths.
In line with this, Turkey pioneered the “Alliance of Civilisations” initiative, which has now become a successful UN programme aimed at mitigating differences and fostering harmony and tolerance between nations.
We believe such efforts will help enhance understanding and cooperation throughout the world, and there is much we can do alongside Indonesia in this regard. Both Turkey and Indonesia possess unique characteristics, but they also share a common commitment to democratic and pluralistic secular systems that respect the rule of law and symbolise moderation and tolerance. I therefore believe that both countries could be sources of inspiration for the Muslim world. Both have the ability to play essential roles in bringing the East and West closer in a number of different ways.
In which sectors is Turkey looking to develop stronger ties with Indonesia to reach the targeted $5bn in trade volume between the two countries by 2014?
GÜL: Increasing the trade volume between our two countries must be the core goal of future economic and commercial cooperation. With regards to trade volume, the composition of that volume is one of the most important factors to examine.
The import-export balance between Turkey and Indonesia is highly asymmetric. The statistics for the last 10 years reveal that the foreign trade deficit of our trade with Indonesia was increasing regularly until 2007, when the deficit reached around $1.2bn, and has remained about the same since then, excluding2009, when the deficit dropped to $767m.
Turkey’s objectives for commercial relations with Indonesia are not only limited to increasing the trade volume, but also include correcting the considerable asymmetry by multiplying exports to Turkey.
Turkish exports to Indonesia can be classified under two categories: agricultural goods and industrial goods.
Under agricultural goods, Turkish products exported to Indonesia include wheat flour, tobacco, ferment, chocolate products, citrus fruits, olive oil, pasta and hazelnuts. Industrial products include petroleum oils and products, motor vehicles and their accessories, tractors, semi-finished and flat-rolled products of iron and non-alloy steel, worked monumental or building stone, marble and travertine, feldspar and cotton.
It is obvious that the larger the trade volume between two countries, the closer our relations will be in the future. I think a higher trade volume and a well-balanced trade structure would pave the way for a higher level of social integration and political cooperation as well as more stable and continuous economic collaboration.
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