Negotiations on the Turkey-Singapore Free Trade Agreement are making good progress, and are almost complete. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci gave this update on Monday (Oct 13) at a lunch meeting with business executives from both countries.The trade pact was launched in January this year. "The goods part is more or less negotiated. The services part always will be more difficult, but that is where there will be greater dividend. If we can overcome these difficulties, we will be able to do more together," said Mr Lee, who is in Istanbul on the second day of his first official visit to Turkey.
"There is a whole range of areas in which we can work together, including government procurement, including transportation. We hope that we will be able to use this both as a symbol of good relations between our two countries, as well as a scheme where we can strength our cooperation and yield practical benefits to companies that want to trade and invest with one another," he added.
More than 70 officials and business leaders from Singapore and Turkey were at the lunch meeting, including representatives from top Turkish conglomerates, investment groups, and firms from sectors such as medical technologies, steel and food processing. The focus of the discussion was fostering closer trade and investment exchanges, and Mr Lee said that there was scope for greater cooperation.
During the meeting, Mr Lee and the Mr Zeybekci said there was a lot of potential to grow trade futher. Bilateral trade between Turkey and Singapore amounted to S$1.4 billion in 2013.
Mr Lee added that Singapore is upgrading its economy and looking for new opportunities to invest abroad, and to attract new partners to invest in Singapore.
"We are, in a way, at a developed level of per capita GDP. But in other ways, in terms of our level of technology, in terms of the comprehensiveness of our economy, in terms of our companies reaching abroad, I think we have some distance to go before we count ourselves as fully developed country like America, Japan or Germany. So we are looking for new partners and I think, between Singapore and Turkey there is good potential."
Mr Lee also said that Singapore is "in the middle of a vibrant region in Southeast Asia" and with the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) due for completion by end-2015, this will enable companies to tap opportunities from a market with 600 million people. The AEC will transform ASEAN into a region with free movement of goods, services, investment, skilled labour and freer flow of capital. Singapore is also a member of trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Lee was hosted to dinner by the mayor of Istanbul, Kadir Topbas, where they affirmed good relations between Singapore and Turkey, and welcomed more opportunities to strengthen business and other exchanges between the two cities.