A ‘second spring’ in Uzbek-Turkish relations
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.