The Turkish-Arab Economic Forum called for speeding up efforts to raise the level of trade integration between the countries of the region, as the volume of the global economy and trade is witnessing a contraction with the increase in geopolitical risks and conflicts.
Turkish Treasury and Finance Minister Mehmet Semsek said that the competition between the United States and China, as a rising power, has caused fragmentation in trade, and increased protectionism and geopolitical tensions.
His remarks came during a forum in Istanbul under the slogan, “A New Phase in Cooperation,” held by the Investment Office of the Turkish Presidency, in cooperation with the Union of Turkish Chambers and Stock Exchanges.
“At a time like this, it was generally believed that regional trade integration was happening faster, but when we look at our region, trade integration within it is the lowest in the world,” the minister stated.
He added that the efforts should be exerted to solve political and geopolitical problems, which would in turn help increase regional trade integration.
Among the attendees were Egyptian Minister of Finance Mohamed Maait, Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Oil, Minister of State for Economic Affairs and Investment, Saad Al-Barrak, and Qatari Minister of State, Head of the Free Zones Administration, Ahmed Al-Sayed.
Maait stressed that the volume of trade between the countries of the region was very low, compared to Europe.
“We must think about the reasons, and we also need to look at the tools we have and compare them to those used in other regions,” he underlined.
He added that the situation would improve a lot if the private sector was given the task of leadership and integration.
In turn, Al-Barrak said that governments have the duty to create the appropriate environment and support the projects of the private sector, pointing out that the real role of the state was to regulate and ensure the progress of companies.
The Qatari minister, for his part, pointed to an enormous potential in the region, which he said must enable countries to carry out international trade with great ease.
In this context, he underlined the need to identify obstacles that prevent achieving a greater integration rate despite the existing potential.
In a speech at the beginning of the forum, the head of the Turkish Presidency’s Investment Office, Burak Daglioglu, said his country has been moving ahead on the right path in cooperation with Arab countries since 2003.
He stated that the volume of trade between Türkiye and the Arab countries 20 years ago was $5 billion, representing 10 percent of total Turkish exports, and rose in 2023 to more than $45 billion, which constitutes 20 percent of the country’s exports.
In turn, the secretary-general of the Union of Arab Chambers, Khaled Hanafy, stressed that the economic cooperation between Ankara and Arab capitals were witnessing continuous growth. He noted that Arab investments in Türkiye were constantly increasing, especially in the field of real estate.