It is all the more remarkable, therefore, that Turkey -- as the Eastern international gateway into Europe -- continues to defy the incredibly tough economic environment.
Growth of 8.2 percent in the third quarter of 2011 made Turkey the second fastest growing economy in the world. Combined with the youngest and fastest growing population in Europe, such economic vibrancy leaves Turkey well placed to play an increasingly key role in the global marketplace.
Turkey and the United Kingdom have long shared a close relationship as two great trading nations and I was delighted to help strengthen these ties by hosting a State Banquet in honor of President Abdullah Gül at Guildhall last November.
As somebody who has lived and studied in London, the president is well aware of the ancient links between our two countries dating back to the early 16th century. I am glad, therefore, that I can reciprocate by traveling to Turkey in my first major overseas visit.
The UK has recognized Turkey's growing importance through the strategic partnership agreed between our two countries -- covering the whole spectrum of our shared goals.
I hope my meetings with the president, Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan and Minister of Economy Zafer Çağlayan, business leaders and leading legal figures during this visit will add impetus to efforts to deepen and widen our mutually beneficial relations.
David Cameron has already agreed an ambitious target to double bilateral trade with Turkey from a baseline of $9 billion in 2010 to $18 billion by 2015.
As the 684th lord mayor of the City of London, it is my job to help achieve this by showing why UK-based financial, professional and business services -- “the City” -- should be the partner of choice to help Turkey achieve key objectives, such as developing İstanbul as a major international financial center, maintaining sustainable growth, creating jobs and infrastructure development.
The UK-Turkey CEO Forum, which held its second meeting in London in November, is a welcome step towards sharing experiences and building on the many synergies between companies in both countries. Over 2,000 British companies already operate in Turkey, but we hope this figure will increase significantly in the next few years as market access issues are gradually addressed and the country continues to develop at an extraordinary pace.
Turkey has recognized, however, that in order to become a truly globalized economy there is a need to develop a financial services hub that international firms are willing and able to invest in. Although progress has been made, much still needs to be done in order to meet the challenging target of turning İstanbul into one of the top 10 financial centers by 2023.
The City has recovered strongly from the global financial crisis and the structural strengths of London as the world's pre-eminent global financial center remains. London is the single most internationally focused financial market place with a wealth of expertise and innovative financing models that could benefit İstanbul's development.
We are not complacent, however, and the UK has argued very hard for both better regulation and more international coordination on reform. Recent developments, such as the Independent Commission on Banking's report on structural reform of the banking sector, show that we are matching -- and in some cases exceeding -- minimum international regulatory requirements in areas such as capital requirements. A regulatory regime that is fit for purpose is essential to the success of any financial center.
Another key element of any successful international financial center is an expert legal sector -- although as a lawyer myself I am somewhat biased! London is a center of legal excellence and English commercial law is trusted across the world. Greater cooperation in this area -- particularly dispute resolution -- will help to facilitate the ambitions of both İstanbul and the wider Turkish legal sector.
In order to meet the demands of rapid economic growth, not to mention the projected growth in population, Turkey will also have to significantly develop its existing infrastructure. The City is home to firms supporting the full lifecycle of PPP (Public Private Partnership) projects that could help to deliver the $50 billion of infrastructure investment required by “Vision 2023” for areas such as highways, energy, airports and ports.
When it comes to ports and maritime services the City is once again a world leader, with over 4,000 firms in the City environs providing specialist maritime services (ship chartering, insurance, legal and financial services). We are also home to key maritime institutions, including the Baltic Exchange and Lloyds of London.
We view this relationship very much as one of sharing skills and experiences to generate more wealth and prosperity for those in both countries, whether it is İstanbul, Ankara, İzmir or London. The City, the United Kingdom and Turkey share great histories, but also as I hope this visit will show a great, shared future.
*Alderman David Wootton is the lord mayor of the City of London.