Interview: Richard Moore
From an economic standpoint, how does the UK view the importance of its relationship with Turkey?
RICHARD MOORE: The relationship between our two countries goes back a long way and has been rooted in economic and trading issues from the day the first English ambassador arrived in Turkey in 1583. As Europe, and the UK in particular, has reoriented itself towards more export-led growth over the past few years, there has been a real focus on building better trading relationships with emerging markets. Turkey is right on Europe’s doorstep and, as such, is a country on which European nations should focus. In 2010 the UK and Turkey agreed on an ambitious plan to double trade by 2015 based on 2009 figures, and I can happily say we are currently on track to meet this goal.
What industries pose the greatest potential in terms of foreign involvement in the Turkish economy?
MOORE: UK companies are active in Turkey across a wide range of fields. Some 2400 UK companies operate here, including household names such as BP, Shell, Vodafone, Compass, HSBC, Tesco, B&Q and Harvey Nichols. We focus our efforts where we can bring expertise and experience to Turkey. The City of London is working to support Istanbul’s plans to become a major financial centre. We are also currently focusing on three other high-value areas.
One is nuclear energy, where there are real opportunities for British and other European firms to help Turkey develop capacity. The plans for three nuclear power plants have created demand for the expertise of all types of companies, for example, engineering consultancy firms. Another area of focus for us is healthcare, in which the current Turkish government has invested heavily since taking office. The construction of the third Istanbul airport will also provide significant opportunities for international companies. The sheer scope of the project necessitates the involvement of many different specialty companies, such as design firms, high-tech engineering consultancies and specialists in the public-private partnership model. Overall, we look very favourably on the various infrastructure improvements upon which Turkey is currently embarking, and our companies are committed to sharing their expertise in order to help the country reach the ambitious development goals of its 2023 vision. UK companies are also increasingly partnering with Turkish companies in the engineering and construction sectors to work together in third country markets.
What more can the government of Turkey do to attract increased foreign investment?
MOORE: Turkey has come a long way economically, especially in the last decade or so of the AKP government’s tenure. Overall the Turkish government is very open to foreign investment and keen to encourage it. The country has made great strides in this area since opening up to increased international involvement in the late 1980s under Turgut Özal. That said, when it comes to various ease of doing business indices, Turkey’s ranking is not commensurate with its importance to the global economy, as the 16th largest economy in the world. There seems to be a general consensus among policymakers that they need to deliver new measures to drive foreign direct investment, such as reducing barriers to entry and encouraging further deregulation, as well as implementing key supply side structural reforms (e.g. in education) if the Turkish economy is to develop its higher-value added export capacity.
Foreign investors want political stability allied to the rule of law, as well as transparency and consistency in the implementation of legislation. The EU accession process, in its active phases, has been a very significant driver of these types of reforms. That is one of the reasons the UK is so strong an advocate of Turkey’s EU vocation. I am confident that progress will continue to be made over the coming years and that Jim (“BRICS”) O’Neill, the British economist, was right to put the “T” into MINTS – the countries with the best chance of providing the new economic giants of the 2050s.
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