Turkey and Singapore are expected to declare the beginning of the free trade agreement negotiations during Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s planned visit to Singapore in early 2014.
Turkey and Singapore are expected to formally announce the launch of negotiations for the signing of a free trade agreement that would make two geographically distant countries economically closer and open new channels for expanding businesses in their respective regions.
Technical talks over the free trade agreement between Turkey and Singapore were conducted in August in Turkey and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s planned visit to Singapore in early 2014 seems to be a good opportunity for its formal announcement.
Talks for the free trade agreement will begin soon,” Lee Yi Shyan, senior minister of state for trade and industry, confirmed with Hürriyet Daily News on Nov. 1. Although not formally announced, Prime Minister Erdoğan is expected to pay a visit to Singapore in January upon an invitation by Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, which is expected to be a milestone in bilateral relations.
Singapore is one of the leading global economies with $788 billion trade in 2012, making South Asia’s small island state the ninth in total world trade. The volume of bilateral trade between Turkey and Singapore was only $1.4 billion in 2012. Both countries believe signing the free trade agreement will help increase this figure and give the chance for their businesses to reach beyond through joint ventures in third countries.
“The positive thing that I feel about Turkey is it has always been an open gate for different cultures between the East, West and for merchants and traders on the Silk Road. In Turkey, people are commercial minded,” Minister Shyan explained. Singapore has been a trading port for centuries, Shyan added, saying more visits from both sides’ businessmen and officials would help the two sides know each other better. A narrow or comprehensive FTA?
On the eve of free trade talks between two countries, the most important question whether or not the agreement will be comprehensive like the Singapore government prefers or just include certain sectors like the Turkish government is opting.
“We are of the opinion that the agreement should be comprehensive. We understand Turkey’s concerns with regard to services but they also have strong service sectors,” a Singaporean official told the Daily News.
Singapore ranks in the sixth position in the total global share with its $119 billion exports’ worth of services. “The good thing is talks will start,” another official stressed, underlining that they will be held on the principle of common interest.
Open call to Turkish constructors
However, opportunities between the two countries are not limited to bilateral trade and cooperation according to senior Singapore government officials who underlined the construction sector could be a driving force for Turkish-Singaporean joint ventures in South Asia and Central Asia.
“Turkey is very strong in the field of construction and our housing board has designed many housing plans in different parts of Asia; in China, Korea and Indonesia… We design the housing plans but we don’t necessarily construct them,” Minister Shyan said. He also added this cooperation could also be seen in the CIS countries in Central Asia.
Another official recalled that although Turkish companies were almost everywhere in the world, they have not so far been interested in looking at construction opportunities in Singapore.
Although Singapore is only 710 km square, it is home to some 5.3 million and is planning to gradually increase the population to up 6.9 million in the future.
Apart from said sectors, the Turkish defense and textile industry are seen as potentialfields to be introduced to both Singapore’s and other South Asian countries’ markets.