Mr. Ruhsar Pekcan, our Minister of Trade, talked about Turkey’s trade atmosphere during the fight against the pandemic, the “Easy Export Platform”, the concept of e-commerce, and his predictions for the upcoming year with Business Diplomacy.
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19), which is a threat to the whole world now, came up in our country’s agenda in March. How did the pandemic affect Turkey’s trade relations? Which measures were taken to overcome the pandemic with minimum damage?
Especially since March, the negative outcomes of the COVID-19 outbreak on international trade have directly affected the foreign trade volumes of many countries. With various measures taken against the pandemic, the world trade declined, narrowing the global trade volume substantially. And we still feel these effects.
In today’s global economy, foreign trade and investments are shaped by global value chains. And with that in mind, the outcomes of the pandemic on global trade and the threats over the global value chains of different countries become inevitable and carry the risk of becoming permanent. Thus, it is now much more important for us to speed up our country’s exports. For this reason, we decided to present new support packages and new services for our exporters.
We Took Every Measure to Overcome This Pandemic with Minimum Damage
We, accordingly, had exemplary applications to have minimum damage in our foreign trade. With a contact-free trade application that we started during the pandemic, we made contact-free trade with the EU countries, as well as Iraq and Iran, all of which are our important export markets.
After the Habur border gate to Iraq was closed on March 1, 2020, we enabled trade through the container, trailer, and driver changes in the buffer zone. And after our Gürbulak, Esendere, Kapıköy border gates were also closed, we enabled trade by only allowing wagons to pass without human contact from the Kapıköy railway border gate. Apart from the Kapıköy railway, we also increased the capacity of the Baku-Tiblisi-Kars line and Sirkeci-Kapıkule-Europe railway lines. We mutually increased the train services in Çerkezköy-Plovdiv railway from daily 1/weekly 5 to daily 2/weekly 10. Additionally, we made contact-free trade in the Kapıkule border gate truck parking isolated area.
We enabled Ro-Ro navigations without the crew landing between our country’s Tuzla, Çeşme, Mersin, Yalova and Ambarlı ports, and Trieste and Bari ports of Italy, and Toulon and Sète ports of France in export and transit loadings by sea. Additionally, we started Ro-Ros in the Karasu-Köstence line.
We Produce Projects That Focus on Digitalisation
In addition, we are trying to offer sustainable, innovative, and data-based solutions to overcome the difficulties faced by our exporters in foreign markets. With projects that focus on digitalisation, the trademark of the global economy, we aim to rapidly adapt to our times and conditions and provide tools that will be needed more in the post-pandemic world for our companies.
Digitalisation has been taken to the forefront with the pandemic. But we had started our digitalisation activities as the Ministry of Trade long before the pandemic. We initiated the Virtual Trade Academy during the pandemic. In this Academy, which we started in May, we have reached a wide audience with the content from the valuable experts of our Ministry, interesting articles, videos, and infographics for foreign trade, entrepreneurship, and domestic trade areas. The Virtual Trade Academy was not the only training opportunity we offered for our entrepreneurs. We had many collaborations too. For example, we carried our “BiTıkla Avrupa” (OneClick Europe) lectures that we jointly launched with Amazon Turkey and TOBB & Boğaziçi Universities to the digital arena during the pandemic.
Again, we collaborated with Facebook and TOBB to help our companies overcome their challenges and launched an online training platform for SMEs on Facebook Station. There are 45 videos on the platform now for the services of our Ministry. In addition, in a period when digitalisation has become more important than ever, as the Ministry, we launched a new support mechanism that will encourage export-oriented digital activities with the Decree published in May this year with the support of our President. Hence, we are now able to support our companies for e-commerce website membership and participation in virtual trade delegations and virtual fairs.
We Stand by Our Exporters with Online Programs and Ministry Supports
During the pandemic, we started to implement virtual trade delegation programs. We recently had “Latin America General Virtual Trade Delegation for Women Entrepreneurs” on September 23 and “Kazakhstan General Virtual Trade Delegation” on September 29. Our companies had the opportunity to hold mutual talks in these delegations. Since May, we had 9 different General Trade Delegations covering 11 countries, and 15 different Sectoral Trade Delegations covering 29 countries virtually. In these delegations, 470 Turkish companies in total had over 4,200 business talks with 1,200 foreign companies. Apart from our Trade Delegations, we have also had 4 Virtual Fairs so far.
We offer our supports to exporters in our Ministry during these challenging times. We increase the scope of our supports and initiate new services for our companies to reach them more easily. Our website kolaydestek.gov.tr, which we initiated for all entrepreneurs to easily follow the support of our Ministry, has reached over 330 thousand people since the day it was launched. We also continued our projects called “Export Academy” and “Online and Physical Women Entrepreneur Network” programs for women and youth entrepreneurship with online meetings and activities during the pandemic. These programs were shown among the good practices in the world by the “SheTrades Outlook” platform of the International Trade Centre, which operates under the coordination of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization.
In line with the dynamics of today’s global trade, we will continue to ensure that our exporters have the biggest advantage of the digitalisation processes, thus supporting their activities in international markets.
Read more in the 10the issue of Business Diplomacy…
Interview: Cem Eker-Gültuğ Erdöl