Chief Executive of UK Trade & Investment, Mr Nick Baird, discusses the potential for further business between the UK and Turkey
Turkey is already a hugely important partner, economically and politically, for the UK and for the EU. But the potential to do much more together is strong. I saw this as the British Ambassador to Turkey from 2006-09, and now, as Chief Executive of UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), Turkey is one of the top priority countries for my organisation.
Turkey is already the world’s sixteenth largest economy and is predicted to join the top 10 during the first half of this century. It has weathered the global economic crisis well and grew by 8.5 per cent in 2011. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development predicts that it will be the third fastest growing major economy by 2017 after China and India. Its GDP per capita has grown from US$3,500 in 2002 to over US$10,000 now.
Its economy is moving fast up the value chain and now excels in high end manufacturing in automotives, textiles, white goods and consumer electronics. Its construction industry is a major global player, its tourism sector is becoming more and more sophisticated and it aims to become a major regional financial services centre.
Its fast growing middle class is a major consumer of the products we in the UK – and the wider EU – excel at creating. The UK’s exports grew by 20 per cent in 2011. UKTI works with many British companies, large and small, from a variety of sectors, which are doing extremely well in Turkey and find it a straightforward, if competitive, place to do business.
Turkey is also a tremendous springboard into Central Asia and the Middle East. Its companies – for example, those in the construction and energy sectors – are highly involved and expert in these areas. They make excellent partners for our own companies and there are already successful examples of this.
But there would be even greater opportunities for EU companies in Turkey if it were a member of the EU and a full participant in the single market beyond its current Customs Union membership. That is one important reason why the UK is a strong supporter of Turkey’s EU membership. I hope the voice of business across the EU will increasingly make itself heard in support of this.