Noting Portugal’s close relations with Latin American and African countries and Turkey’s deep ties to Balkan and Middle Eastern countries, Turkey’s Development Minister Cevdet Yılmaz said on Wednesday these ties will contribute to the growth of Turkish-Portuguese economic relations.
Speaking in İstanbul at the Turkey-Portugal Trade and Investment Forum hosted by the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON), Yılmaz said the soft power used by Turkey and Portugal as well as their complementary connections demonstrate the extensive geographical influence of both countries. He expressed that it is possible for the countries to work together using their complementary strengths in a variety of fields such as economy, commerce, defense, education, and culture and arts to deepen the relations between them within the presence of an already established legal framework.
Speaking about Portugal’s strong support for Turkey’s bid to become a European Union member, Yılmaz said, “We need strategic and visionary approaches to this matter like Portugal’s views, for both Turkey’s and Europe’s gain.” He mentioned that both countries already have similarities, being both Mediterranean countries as well as a NATO members, and added, “The parliaments of both countries established a friendship group and have prepared to sign agreements to cooperate in the defense industry, which will contribute to the enhancement of political relations.”
The minister explained that Turkey’s annual national income is over $770 billion and Portugal’s is over $230 billion; however, the volume of trade between the countries is only around $1 billion, which means there is room for growth. He noted, “The number of platforms like this that allow businessmen to come together should be increased, as it is a great opportunity that has the potential for business growth.”
Mentioning the number of Portuguese businesses operating in Turkey in banking, wind power and cement, he said, “The investment of these firms, which is around $750 million, is below expectations, and the trade volume should reach its fullest potential.” Pointing out the fact that both countries depend on foreign gas and oil, he suggested businesses could work together in the fields of renewable energy and energy efficiency, as well as mining.
Speaking to participants, Portuguese Foreign Minister Paulo Portas invited Turkish businessmen to take advantage of opportunities that will become available due to the privatization of some state-owned businesses in Portugal, and he told them to add the country to their road map. Noting that Turkey went through a financial crisis 10 years ago, which is what Portugal is living through now, he said, “After structural reforms to the economy, Turkey became a massive economic power, and with the presence of political stability and agreements between employees and employers in Portugal, in addition to deals made with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union to end the crisis, businesses that plan to invest in Portugal should not hesitate to come forward.” Underlining the frequency of flights to Brazil and Africa offered by Portugal’s national airline, he announced Portugal’s plans to privatize its national carrier. He said railways, postal services and some other sectors of government will be privatized as well.
Discussing Turkey’s partnership with the EU, Portas said Turkey can provide solutions to help European countries to cope with changes in the Muslim world, and the EU needs to approach Turkey’s membership with openness and be more inclusive. “Political and economical relations with Turkey are crucially important, and we are not satisfied with the complicated process of membership,” he said. “If we want to understand Islam, open our markets to 74 million people and play an international role, our approach to the matter needs to be open and energetic.”