Nick Clegg is on a trade mission to Turkey today, and has announced £500m of business deals and £1m of funding for the Turkish Red Crescent in Syria.
He wrote this morning in Turkey’s Sabah newspaper, on the Turkish economy, trade between Turkey and the UK, visas for Turkish travellers, and the the response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria. You can read the article in Turkish over at Sabah; the English translation is below:
This summer for a few, glorious weeks the United Kingdom became the centre of the world as we hosted the London Olympic and Paralympic Games. Both events showed the United Kingdom at its best.
Millions of spectators flooded into world class venues to watch world class sport. I know Turkish fans will have their own special memories, including Aslı Çıkar Alptekin’s historic 1500m gold on a breezy evening in the Olympic Stadium. One of my most abiding memories will be the welcome our magnificent band of volunteers extended to visitors from all over the world. It’s in this spirit of openness that I’m visiting Ankara and Istanbul this week, accompanied by representatives from the British business world.
The Turkish economy seems set for a comfortable landing this year, after years of stellar growth. A young, dynamic workforce, coupled with enterprising firms, have helped Turkey cope with the global financial turmoil of recent years. Record exports to the Middle East and North Africa show you are adapting quickly to the commercial opportunities presented by the Arab Spring. And I expect that, over the coming years, trade with the EU will continue to play a big part in Turkey’s likely ascent into the world’s top ten economies.
My visit this week is aimed at boosting our shared prosperity – here and in the UK. Two years ago, our governments set an ambitious aim of doubling bilateral trade by 2015. I’m delighted to say we’re well on our way. But we aren’t complacent and I’m confident that the delegation I’m travelling with this week will bring us even closer.
We’ll be focusing on the areas where deepening our ties will reap the biggest rewards. For example, promoting trade particularly between our small and medium sized business – the backbone of both our economies. The UK has the expertise to help Turkey embrace the economic challenges of the future. And there are opportunities to do more together in the industries – like advanced manufacturing – that are a priority for the UK.
We’re already making remarkable progress. Over 2,200 British companies have invested in Turkey, including high street names like Marks & Spencer, TESCO, Vodafone, HSBC, and Laura Ashley. Last year alone Turkish imports of British goods and services rose by 20%. The biggest single foreign investment in Turkey in 2011 came from Diageo, a British global beverages company, which purchased Mey Icki.
Turkish interest in the UK is also growing: many UK households now have a BEKO appliance. One of our biggest sporting institutions, Manchester United FC, has a sponsorship deal with Turkish Airlines. United’s rival, Liverpool FC, has struck a deal with the Turkish clothing chain, Ramsey. And the Turkish financial and business services sector is increasingly looking to the City of London as a model as Turkey seeks to establish Istanbul as a regional financial centre.
In my conversations in Ankara and Istanbul I will champion the UK’s greatest assets: our pro-business tax and regulatory environment, the strength of our universities and research base, and our openness to foreign investment. I’ll also be emphasising our commitment to delivering a first class visa service for Turkish travellers. Every year millions of Turks go to the UK as tourists, students and to do business. We run a first class visa operation from Istanbul to ensure you can secure visas promptly. This year 94% of business visitors received their visa within five days. I’m pleased to announce that we’ve also launched a new “Business Bridge” service to ensure that key Turkish businesspeople benefit from even quicker processing times.
Aside from business, I’ll be discussing how the UK and Turkey can further improve our response to the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Syria. Sadly, the UN Security Council has been unable to unite on the need to take action to secure Assad’s removal and protect ordinary Syrians facing his brutality. We share Turkey’s intense frustration at this failure. We are very keen to work with the Turkish Government in handling the consequences, not least the exodus of refugees. Turkey has responded to this challenge in a typically impressive manner. The speed with which the Government established camps to deal with the tens of thousands pouring across the border has drawn praise from around the world. The UK has already committed £30million to alleviate humanitarian suffering in Syria and the surrounding countries, making us the world’s second biggest bilateral donor. Our challenge now is to bring about the peace that would allow the hundreds of thousands of Syrian people who have fled their homes to return in safety.
The Syria crisis is a reminder of just how much the European Union has to gain from Turkey’s accession. I have long seen the case for Turkish entry into the EU as a strategic necessity. It will help Turkey achieve its aim of building a more democratic and free society, based on the rule of law, principles that lie at the EU’s core. It will enhance immeasurably the EU’s influence across the region. And it will signal to the world that, like the UK, the EU is open for business with Turkey too.