Economic Cooperation Organization Trade and Industry (ECO CCI) 26. Executive Committee and 17th General Assembly Meetings were hosted by the Union Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) President M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu at the TOBB Istanbul Service Building.
In his opening speech, TOBB President M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu stated that their aim is to increase trade and investment among ECO countries and said, “The importance of this issue is not limited to its economic meaning. In our countries and geography, if we want peace and prosperity, the way to do this is more trade. Whoever is engaged in trade has not time for hostility.”
Stating that the best example of this is Europe, Hisarcıklıoğlu said that European countries have fought with each other for a thousand years, culminating in two great world wars, realizing that strife is unable to bring an end to wars, they established economic unity. Hisarcıklıoğlu stated that they have increased the trade between them; conducting 70% of their total foreign trade amongst themselves, becoming prosperous and attaining peace.
Stating that they can achieve the same success, the TOBB President said, “Our trade ratio of with each other is around 8%. If we want to prosper, we have to change this first. If we want our peoples to be rich, we need to increase trade with each other.”
Hisarcıklıoğlu stated that they’ve expressed the importance of ECOTA for years and that ECOTA should be put into operation as soon as possible.
Stressing that protectionist policies decrease wealth, Hisarcıklıoğlu said, “For developing countries like us, the road to wealth is to remove the barriers to trade and increase trade. The best example is Turkey. We do not have oil, natural gas or any important mineral wealth. More than half of the electricity we use is based on imported input. Until 1980’s, Turkey had high tariff walls. With the comfort of this, we would produce both poor quality and costly goods. We exported 3bn USD, 90% of which was agricultural products. Industry was almost non-existent. Our quality of life was poor. Our companies could not grow. Then, thanks to the late Özal, we learned to open up and compete. We became an industrial giant in the region between China and Italy. In 20 years, 90% of our exports turned into industrial products. We export these goods to Europe and the United States, where quality is of the utmost importance. We have become the most important supplier country in Europe in textiles, garments, home appliances and automotive.”
Stating that they provide all of these through trade and entrepreneurship, Hisarcıklıoğlu emphasized that natural resources make governments richer, not the people and that they way to spread prosperity to the people and make it permanent is to encourage trade and entrepreneurship.
Referring to the visa issue, Hisarcıklıoğlu said, “Trade requires you to travel. If you travel to your target market, trade, partnerships and investments will increase. People do not prefer the countries they have difficulty in accessing, preferring more accessible countries. But we prevent access by requiring a visa from the very beginning. When we make access difficult, we also complicate trade and investments. And we say we're brothers. In our culture, brothers do not need visas to each other's house, only a greeting. We have to put an end to this mistake. We need to raise this issue with all of our countries and governments.”
TOBB President Hisarcıklıoğlu stated that one of the most important issues is to make trade routes safe and fast. “Thus, trade between us increases and we become the center of trade between Asia and Europe. Our region is suitable for this. We've done it before in history. The countries on the Silk Road became rich. Currently, half of the world commodity trade is between East Asia and Europe. If we cannot make the most of this Silk Road, we need to question ourselves. We are looking for ways to transport these goods faster. We have great opportunities. If we don't take this opportunity, someone else will do it. If we make our trade routes safe and fast, we become the hub of trade between Asia and Europe.”
Touching on the importance of making customs crossings fast, transparent and standardized, Hisarcıklıoğlu continued: “We have realized the modernization of Turkey's all major land border crossings as TOBB. This way, waiting times were halved, the transition volume has quadrupled. We were chosen as the best practice by the United Nations and cited as an example to the world. We are ready to share our experience in all these matters.”
Emphasizing that they assumed the Secretariat General of the ECO CCI based on this vision, Hisarcıklıoğlu said, “The biggest problem we encountered was the different Chamber structures in our countries. We first focused on this. We started to organize programs that would attract the interest of non-founding chambers. We provided the participation of countries to our last 3 meetings. We completed the first Chamber Training Program of ECO CCI yesterday. Again, last year we realized an important first. Uzbekistan hosted an ECO CCI Executive Board. In 2020, ECO CCI meetings will be hosted by our members in Central Asia. As ECO CCI, we also signed a cooperation agreement with the Turkic Council. We held the TAPİ Natural Gas and Energy Projects conference of Turkmenistan in Istanbul. In the coming period, we will continue to do things to bring us closer. I would like to take your opinions and suggestions on this subject. Because our culture and our faith emphasizes that ‘consulting the master of a craft will yield the most beautiful work of the.’”
- ECO CCI President Hafizi
President of ECO CCI Azarakhsh Hafizi said that the world has turned into a global village and that they can trade anywhere in the world. Hafizi stated that the ECO region would benefit from the experiences of Turkey, Iran and Pakistan.
Hafizi emphasized that the visa issue should be solved and that getting a visa has become much more difficult than before, and that even sanctions are worse than requiring visas.
Hafizi stated that trade should be redefined, and as ECO region, they should benefit from each other's experiences and for this, all countries should be integrated.
Daroo Khan, President of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Pakistan, said that regional integration would benefit the increase of trade volume and that opportunities would be lost without cooperation.
Khan asked the business community in the ECO region to direct its resources to this untapped potential in the region. Khan emphasized that the business world always attaches importance to dialogue and said that trade is inadequate and that the rules of trade vary greatly from one country to another.