The Middle East and Gulf region have become one of the focal points of Turkish Foreign Policy, especially after 1980. This period in which bilateral relations with the countries of the region made great progress both in terms of economy and politics resulted in increasing trade volumes and convergence in political relations. The ever-changing political conjuncture in the region and the existence of transitory alliances render it necessary for Türkiye to constantly revise its approach to the region.
Looking at the last 2 years, we see that Türkiye has maintained its political relations with the countries of the region on the basis of mutual benefit and in a way that contributes to bilateral trade volumes. If we review the countries in the region one by one, we can tell that political and commercial relations have weakened as a result of the ongoing civil way in Syria and Yemen. On the other hand, close political relations and increasing bilateral trade volumes with Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Kuwait, which are called Gulf countries, have come to the fore in the last 2 years. The approaches of Gulf countries based on strengthening trade and economic relations have also been beneficial in terms of improving political relations with Türkiye. The bilateral relations that have been tense for a while with the United Arab Emirates, one of the most important trade and investment centres in the region, have gained positive momentum since last August as a result of mild statements and the policies of both sides that prioritize cooperation.
The United Arab Emirates-Türkiye 10th Term KEK Meeting held in Dubai in November with the participation of Mehmet Muş, Minister of Trade of the Republic of Türkiye, and the United Arab Emirates-Türkiye Business Forum organized by DEİK afterwards are significant in terms of adopting a roadmap for the development of trade in the upcoming period and creating new business opportunities for the private sectors of both countries. The 10 agreements signed on the occasion of UAE Crown Prince Al-Nahyan’s visit to Türkiye right after the Business Forum are regarded as a significant step in terms of bringing both the trade volume and economic relations between the two countries to the desired levels. We have an expectation that the trade volume that has decreased due to the political tension between our country and Saudi Arabia for a while will increase as a result of the positive steps taken.
In case we get back to our region, even though it was difficult to hold meetings, travels abroad, business forums or bilateral meetings on physical platforms, which were the routine of our daily life before the pandemic, in the last 2 years passed under the shadow of Covid-19, as DEİK/Türkiye-Middle East and Gulf Business Councils, we maintained our commercial diplomacy activities without slowing down and complying with the necessary health conditions of the pandemic period. While our 13 Business Councils held regular Executive Board meetings, they also carried out organizations and projects to increase the bilateral trade volume. One of the main activities of DEİK, namely “Business Forums”, was revised in line with the conditions of the pandemic period and held on online platforms as “Interconnected Business Series”. Interconnected Business Series organized by our Bahrain, Oman, and Palestine Business Councils gave the opportunity to both Turkish business people and private sector representatives on our counterpart to hold B2B meetings, and beneficial results were obtained.
In the last 2 years, we have continued our strong communication with our Ambassadors, Consuls General and Commercial Counsellors, which are one of the pillars of our Commercial Diplomacy activities and whose valuable support we always feel, and we have endeavoured to increase the activities of our Business Councils abroad. In this sense, we carried out our “E-Chats with Our Commercial Counsellors” series, which we organized under high participation during the pandemic process, in the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Bahrain with a sectoral focus. The meetings we have with our Ambassadors and Consuls General not only help us gain first-hand information about the countries where we carry out our activities but also provide us with a lot of benefits in terms of learning about the local dynamics of the country and its future prospects.
Our Middle East and Gulf Business Councils strengthen and increase cooperation with public institutions, foreign representatives, private sector representatives, and academic institutions. While the academic reports prepared together with partner organizations are intended to be a guide in the investments and commercial activities of our member companies, they also take our cooperation with our counterpart organization one step further. “Report on Bilateral Trade & Foreign Direct Investment for Kuwait and Türkiye” prepared by our DEİK/Türkiye-Kuwait Business Council is a good example in this regard.
Having entered our lives during the pandemic process, “Webinar” series is also actively used by our Business Councils in this process. In order for increasing the commercial activities of our member companies in the countries where they are located, our Kuwait, Qatar, and Jordan Business Councils have organized useful Webinars.
With the resumption of international flights and the reduction of pandemic restrictions, we started to organize our Business Forums on physical platforms, as we did in the past. The “United Arab Emirates-Türkiye Business Forum” held in Dubai on November 23 is one of our most beneficial activities in recent years, considering the high demand from our members and the positive results, as it is the first business forum held in Dubai after a long time.
When we briefly evaluate the last 2 years, we see that despite the pandemic period that closed the whole world into their homes, as DEİK/Türkiye-Middle East and Gulf Business Councils, we maintained our activities without slowing down by adapting to the conditions of the period as quickly as possible. As a result of the great effort and active work of our Business Councils, we have made significant contributions to the increase of the trade volume of the Turkish private sector. In the upcoming period, when the pandemic begins to lose its effect and we will return to our normal life to a large extent, together with our 13 Business Councils, we will maintain our Business Diplomacy activities without slowing down by catching the pace we are accustomed to.