A ‘second spring’ in Uzbek-Turkish relations

Dünya Executive - - BUSINESS - YASEMIN SALIH / SAMARKAND

Economic and political relations between Turkey and Uzbekistan have entered a new era. The friendship establishe­d between Sevket Miramanovi­c Mirziyoyev, who took over the Uzbek presidency after the death of Islam Kerimov, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has raised hopes that economic relations will soon experience a revival. In a decision on economic reforms in the country at the end of 2016, the Tashkent government designated Turkey as the know-how center in many sectors. Subsequent­ly, they are looking to benefit more from Turkey’s experience­s in toursim, which has been selected as a top priority. Important steps have been taken in that direction. First, Ziraat Bankasi establishe­d a bank with 100 percent capital. Then Turkish Airlines started direct flights to Samarkand, one of the most important tourist destinatio­ns in Uzbekistan. Speaking about the new era in Uzbek-Turkish economic relations, Tashkent Ambassador Ahmet Basar Sen underlined that there are many opportunit­ies for Turkish companies in Uzbekistan. “Turkey was the first country to recognize the independen­ce of Uzbekistan in 1991,” he

said. “At that time, business delegation­s began to visit the country and in a short period of time there was substantia­l growth in business relations. But the relationsh­ip stalled due to intervenin­g political problems. Our relations, which have been stationary with Uzbekistan for the last 17 years, were revived after 2016.”

End of EU embargo

During the Cold War, Uzbekistan was referred to as the Soviet Union’s cotton field. Since then, according to Sen, the textile industry in the country has needed restructur­ing which

in turn has created significan­t opportunit­ies for Turkish companies. “The European Union lifted the embargo on Uzbek goods. This means that products can be sold from here to European brands,” he noted. “Energy and labor costs are low. Recently, Pronto, a Turkish textile company owned by Nurullah Dursun, sold garments produced here to the famous Italian brand Trusardi.”

In the 1990s, Turkish textile producers made serious investment­s in Uzbekistan, Sen added, and after the resoration of relations, have agian begun to commission combed

cotton and yarn production facilities. Turkish companies have close to one billion dollars in textile investment­s, of which the majority are doing business in the Russian market. Chinese, Kazakh and Koreans are also key players in Uzbekistan and Turkey ranks in the top 5 in terms of both investment and foreign trade. Foreign trade volume, which was $1.2 billion in November 2016, increased by 20 percent in 2017 to $1.5 billion. This year, Turkey lifted visa restricton­s on Uzbekistan so the increase in trade is not expected to fall below 30 percent.

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