ANKARA, April 18 – Malaysian businesses should seize the opportunities to expand and flourish in Turkey to take advantage of the growing bilateral ties, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. At the same time, he said, Turkish businesses should reciprocate by increasing their investments and trade ties with Malaysia. “The Prime Minister (Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan) and I are both strongly committed to bilateral partnership, and there is no clearer example of this commitment than the Malaysia-Turkey Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which we will witness later today,” he said in his keynote address at the Turkey-Malaysia business luncheon hosted by The Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey here. Also present were Turkish Deputy Prime Minister, Ali Babacan, and Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci.

Najib said he felt positive towards the two-way trade, adding that based on the current investment trend, Malaysia and Turkey were targeted to increase trade volume to US$5 billion in five years’ time. “In 2013, Malaysia’s total trade with Turkey was over US$1 billion. “Bilateral trade will increase significantly with the implementation of the Malaysia-Turkey FTA,” he said. The FTA would also strengthen economic and technical cooperation in areas such as small and medium enterprises, services, agriculture and food, healthcare, energy, e-commerce, research and development and the car sector, he said. “I urge the business communities of both countries to take advantage of this agreement (FTA). Through this agreement we will meet the challenge set by Erdogan for our bilateral trade to reach US$5 billion,” he said. Najib, who is on a two-day working visit to the Turkey, said the Asean FTA and the Asean FTAs with Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand meant that doing business with Malaysia was not just about a market of 29 million, but a combined market of three billion.

By embracing a pan-Asian strategy, Turkish businesses could leverage on Malaysia’s strategic location and tap opportunities across Asia, he said. Najib said Turkey and Malaysia also have much in common. “Firstly, we both have the advantage of geography — Turkey lies between Asia and Europe, while Malaysia sits between China and India, and at the heart of Asean; “Secondly, both of us are trading nations, straddling trade routes stretching back to the Ottomans and the Malay sultanates; and, “Thirdly, we are both modern, progressive Muslim countries, which see eye to eye on a range of important international issues,” he said. He said both nations needed to expand bilateral investments, which were currently somewhat lopsided. “To date Turkish investments in Malaysia amount to US$126.1 million, whereas Malaysia’s in Turkey are US$1 billion.

“Thus far, Turkish investments in Malaysia have mainly concentrated in the defence industry, supplying equipment to the Malaysian armed forces. “But I am heartened that Turkish interests in Malaysia are growing. Malaysia is pleased to host Turkish manufacturing companies, notably Eyvap Sabun. Eyvap’s initial investment in Malaysia of US$85 million has helped create 190 new jobs. “Eyvap is also working with Felda Global Ventures to set up one of the largest oleo-chemical plants in Malaysia. We encourage more Turkish companies to locate in Malaysia to expand their businesses in Asia-Pacific. “There are many opportunities for Turkish companies, for example, in the halal sector and the economic corridors in Malaysia,” he said. Najib said over the past few years, Malaysia has been working hard to enhance investments between the two countries.

Turkey’s economic potentials had not escaped Malaysia’s attention, he said. He said Khazanah Nasional Bhd has significantly increased its presence in Turkey, investing some US$1 billion in healthcare, insurance and infrastructure sectors. “Through its Turkey representative office, Khazanah planned to increase its investments to US$3 billion. “When I was here in 2011, I was impressed with the competitiveness of the Turkish construction companies which had successfully secured numerous contracts in Russia, North Africa and Central Asia. Najib said Malaysian construction companies were also well-regarded overseas for the quality and timely delivery of their work, particularly in the Gulf region and South Asia. “The time is right, I am sure, for us to forge more collaborations in this area. “We also need to enhance the awareness of our own products and services among our peoples. We should continue programmes such as the ‘Malaysia Week’ held in October 2012 in Istanbul, and the ‘Turkish Products Exhibition’ and ‘Turkish Cultural Week’ in Malaysia held in March 2012,” he said.

He said more could be done to share both countries’ cultural diversity in sports, food, music, art and heritage. Meanwhile, speaking at a lecture entitled “Turkey-Malaysia Strategic Partnership in a Globalising Asia”, at the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research, Najib said Malaysia and Turkey faced similar challenges. “With the coming of modernity, we seek the right balance between opportunity and tradition. As we open our economies to outside investment, we work to secure a better standard of living for our people, and a brighter economic future for our nations. “In the face of demographic and technological changes, we look to strengthen our societies and the democracy that they depend on,” he said. Najib said in an inter-dependent global economy, the benefits of greater co-operation extended far beyond Asia’s borders.

“That is why I look forward to the completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will strengthen our ties with the wider world, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which will bring three of the largest economies into the world’s largest trading bloc and, of course, the FTA between Turkey and Malaysia,” he said. He said the FTA has been many years in the making. “We hope that it unlocks a new era not just of trade between our nations, but of deeper economic integration, with Malaysia as a passage to Asia’s emerging prospects, and Turkey as a gateway to the mature markets in Europe,” he said. Earlier, Najib participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Anitkabir Mausoleum. The ceremony pays homage to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of Turkey’s modern, secular republic.

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