Business Interview: Ahmet Demirok, Turkish ambassador to Qatar
In conversation with Syed Ameen Kader, Ahmet Demirok, the Turkish ambassador to Qatar, discusses the recent major contributors to the buoyant trade relations between Qatar and Turkey.
How would you like to analyse the economic and cultural relations between Qatar and Turkey? How have the bilateral relations between the two countries evolved over the years to reach a stronger position today?
Economic relations are not indifferent from the dynamic growth of our relations in all fields. I am glad to say that our economic ties are getting stronger each day. Of course, the brotherly relations between Turkey and Qatar motivate the two nations to deepen their business and trade relations. Investment opportunities in our countries are also important.
It is for sure that the expanding political and economic relations will further consolidate ties at grassroots level. Turkey and Qatar have a shared history and cultural affinity and cultural relations are getting stronger. We are celebrating 2015 as the Year of Culture between Turkey and Qatar. We are witnessing a chain of colourful organisations throughout the cultural year. ‘Qatari Cultural Week’ in Istanbul and ‘Turkish Festival’ in Doha that started recently will display effective parts of historical and modern aspects of Turkish and Qatari culture. As a concrete fall out, I see with great pleasure that Turkish and Qatari people are getting more and more interested in knowing each other.
What are the areas and sectors of business in which both the countries have traditionally been stronger and have witnessed healthy import/export numbers?
Qatar is of course very strong in liquefied natural gas (LNG) and Turkey imports substantial quantities from Qatar. Our export items to Qatar include furniture, machinery, electrical appliances and steel. In addition, Turkish construction companies are very capable and making business all over the world.
Can you name any specific Turkish expertise which has seen greater demand in the Qatar market? Similarly, what are the key sectors or areas within Turkey where Qatari companies/investors can see trade in?
The construction sector in Qatar uses sizeable Turkish capital and expertise. Cumulatively, the total value of construction projects undertaken by Turkish firms in Qatar amounts to USD15.1 billion (QAR54.9 billion). Among these, the Museum of Islamic Arts, New Doha International Airport, Qatar National Convention Center, Salwa Road, North Road, Ras Laffan to Mesaieed Gas Pipeline project and Qatargas Onshore Facilities are the most prominent. We are eager to expand our cooperation in other sectors as well.
Turkey, with its updated, modernised and simple legal framework for foreign investors offers ample opportunities for Qatari businessmen. Qatar has already invested in several projects in Turkey, primarily in the real estate, banking and media sectors. We expect to see more Qatari investment in Turkey. Investment is of greater significance given the notable growth and dynamism demonstrated by the two countries. We perceive that both countries are key players in the global markets and share common interests and opportunities.
In this context, in the bilateral economic relations perspective, construction, energy, health, agriculture sectors and plastic and aluminum industries have particular potential for cooperation.
What’s the history and growth prospect of cultural and tourism relations between the countries?
Human to human contact is very important. That is why we attribute greater importance to our cultural and educational relations, and we work a lot on these fields. We believe that our shared history and culture form the basis that connects Turkey and Qatar. An important part of human-to-human contacts is education and one of our main objectives is to enhance cooperation in this field between our brotherly countries. The first Turkish school will start next year.
Accordingly, we are happy to see that our Qatari brothers and sisters are more and more interested in Turkish culture and history. That makes a positive impact on tourism statistics as well.
What are the new and emerging sectors that have greater growth potential in the future – something that both the countries can capitalise on?
There are strategic sectors that always have importance such as energy, mining, construction, banking and finance. I believe there are concrete opportunities that can be capitalised.
Healthcare is a particularly promising sector. I believe Turkey has a vast experience with its skilled doctors and nurses and good-quality hospitals and services in health sector. There is a lot to share in this area.
I also would like to draw your attention to food security. This will increasingly be a critical issue for the world. Obviously the resources are limited, yet both the world population and consumption are increasing. Securing the production of, and access to, food will gain further significance. Moreover, we need better technologies in agriculture. This could potentially be an important area
Could you please share any the trade and business volumes between Qatar and Turkey?
Bilateral trade volume touched USD1.3 billion (QAR4.8 billion) in 2014. The exports of Turkey to Qatar were USD344 million (QAR1.3 billion) and imports of Turkey from Qatar were USD965 million (QAR3.5 billion).
In my opinion, this does not reflect the true potential of our countries. There is still room to advance our trade relations. We believe that the exports of Turkey to Qatar will further increase as we have diversity in our trade relations.