By Kate Madley

Turkey is a modern, ambitious and open market with a strategic geographical position acting as a land bridge between Europe and Asia. That was the message from his Excellency Ünal Ceviköz, Turkish Ambassador to the UK, as he visited Cardiff yesterday (May 14).

The visit, part of UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) Export Week, saw Mr Ceviköz share his experience of trading with one of Europe’s fastest growing economies.

Currently bilateral trade between Wales and Turkey is valued at USD$205 million, of which USD$66 million are Welsh exports to Turkey. This momentum is set to build following the First Minister’s visit to the country in January, and a multi-sector Welsh Government led trade mission scheduled for later this year.

The Turkish economy has proven resilient throughout the last decade, with an average Growth Domestic Product growth of 5.2% 2002-2011. Addressing an audience of businesses at Cardiff’s St David’s Hotel, His Excellency attributed much of Turkey’s buoyancy to the country’s own domestic crisis in 2001. As a result, Turkey needed to progress two areas; public finance and the banking sector which supported the economy throughout the 2008 global financial crisis.

Much of Turkey’s growth strategy is reliant on exports itself, and because of its stable economy it is attracting foreign investment particularly from the European Union, North America and the Gulf countries. The volume of Turkish exports in 2011 totalled USD$134 billion, an increase of USD$21 billion from 2010.

With a young and skilled workforce – 65% of Turkey’s 74 million populace is under the age of 34 – producing 500,000 graduates a year, Turkey is now classified as a fast developing economy.

Attendees were alerted to Turkey’s young, urban and tech savvy population, with 70% living in cities, and one million new mobiles sold every month. Indeed, mobile phones themselves have become a major method of payment, with Turkey advancing the UK in this area.

Turkey is also the second largest construction exporter in the world, Europe’s largest producer of coaches and commercial vehicles, and the world’s third largest producer of mega yachts.

Opportunities for Welsh businesses looking to trade in Turkey are vast, according to Bill Jones, director of Kinetic Cubed, who shared his knowledge of the Turkish market with Welsh businesses. Mr Jones highlighted specific sectors of interest at the Export Week event. Turkish companies are keen for UK technology and knowledge transfer in the environment, energy and renewable sector.

As a result of increasing internal and external threats, Turkey has become one of the world’s largest defence and security equipment importers. Mega projects are being supported by the government in energy, health, transport and infrastructure, with the aim for Istanbul to be a leading global financial centre by 2023.

Entering the Turkish market can take some time, but Mr Jones advised that it is a quicker process than the BRIC economies for modest gains and a quicker return on investment. Businesses can enter using direct or indirect methods or through a franchise, however, he advised appointing a distributor is the most successful route to market if you are prepared to invest in the relationship.

An ambitious market, Turkey is set to continue to grow. In the last three years, 22 embassies have been opened in the sub-Sahara region, while major initiatives include building a strategic relationship with Africa and growth of the Turkish Airline brand. Currently the third largest airline in Europe, Istanbul’s airport is in the top ten for traffic in Europe, connecting passengers to over 100 countries worldwide. Indeed, its airlines may see further traffic should Istanbul be successful in its bid to host the 2020 Olympics.

It is predicted that Turkey will be Europe’s 4th largest market and ranked as the world’s 12th largest market by 2050, and businesses attending were urged to make the most of the opportunities in the growing economy.