Erol Bilecik

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Erol Bilecik
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BSEC Workshop for Young Diplomats, 24.10.2018

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to address you today on behalf of TUSİAD, Turkish Industry and Business Association.

First of all, I would like to thank the Black Sea Economic Cooperation for giving me the opportunity to present and convey the views of TUSİAD on  ‘’Strengthening of the economic cooperation in the wider Black Sea area.’’

First and foremost let me give you a very brief information about who we are and what our role is in Turkey. Then I will proceed on Turkey’s perspective of the region and also the role of TUSİAD in the Wider Black Sea Region.

TUSİAD is an independent civil society organization of the internationally integrated business people in Turkey, including the representatives of major global companies.

It plays a significant role in the Turkish economy. 4,500 member companies represent 50% of value added, 85% of foreign trade excluding energy, 80% of corporate tax revenue and more than 50% of non-governmental and non-agricultural workforce.

TUSIAD is a member of BusinessEurope, the voice of European business, the Global Business Coalition of G20, BIAC of OECD, Global Compact Network Turkey, Businessmed, Major Economies Business Forum on Energy Security and Climate Change, Belt and Road Industrial and Commercial Alliance.

Furthermore it has a strong international network of six representative offices around the world: Washington, D.C., Brussels, Paris, Berlin, London, and Beijing. With its global outlook, TUSİAD has an interest in the preservation of the rules-based international liberal order with pluralist democracies, open economies and transnational alliances.

TUSİAD’s activities are aimed at creating a social order based on the competitive market economy, sustainable development and participatory democracy.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The region surrounding the Black Sea including the Balkans, Caucasus and the Caspian, lies in the basin where the continents meet and the land routes and sea lanes connecting east and west and north and south intersect.

Being located at this strategic spot is gaining importance day by day due to dynamic global balances. In this rapidly changing environment, China has increased its influence in world politics and economics and Europe, Russia and US are struggling to preserve their power on global scale.

The trade dispute between China and USA may turn into a trade war that will affect the whole world.

The possibility of international disputes that posed the danger of potential conflicts and domestic problems in the countries’ internal affairs can be resoluted by the solidarity of the countries with the great respect and wisdom.

It was vital for both Turkey and the countries in the region to enter into regional cooperation agreement that would maintain peace, provide stability and cooperation in the Wider Black Sea Region. This was the background against the initiative that was taken by Turkey in the early 1990s.

It is true and normal that the historical, political and socio-economic background in the countries of the region and business organizations differ. Since the early 90s, especially the countries of Eastern Europe have been rapidly engaging in both political and economic transition with important consequences also for the civil society and the business community. The transition from a state-led to market-oriented system has been completed to a great extent.

The organized actions of the countries in the region and coordinated decisions taken by them with respect to each other create potentially high markets especially in certain sectors like transport, energy, services, manufacturing and trade.

Global players can’t ignore the benefits of the wider Black Sea region that gives a direction to the markets especially in the field of energy with resources in gas and petroleum and transportation due to its potential to be a trade corridor with maritime facilities.

According to the annual report of Black Sea Trade and Development Bank in 2017, The Back Sea Region enjoyed one of its best years in terms of economic activity since the pre-financial crisis boom period in 2000s. While GDP growth was 1.3 in 2016 in the BSEC Region, this rate increased to 3.5 in 2017.

The important task of the countries in the region will be to maintain this success and move forward.

The region offers tremendous opportunities for the business community. Intra-regional trade and investment activities are important as well as the activities between the region and the other countries.

In this context, private sector collaboration based on common values and integrated economies is key for making the region powerful both inside and outside.

TÜSİAD believes that the big economic potential of our region can be improved further with joint and coordinated action and the national private sector organizations may contribute to activate this potential through working together with a “strategic view” based on “partnership and union”.

In addition to that, private sector’s undeniable effect on government actions can pave the way to overcome disparities and help states to create sustainable social and economic policies, mobilize and develop dynamic and strong economic region like the wider Black Sea.

Ladies and Gentleman,

It is important for us to act in unity despite the problems. “Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.” “The path to greatness is along with others.” For a powerful regional cooperation and coordinated action, negative impact of the security conditions on economic activities should be reduced.

On the other hand, enhancing economic security in the wider Black Sea region to prevent speculative attacks, shocks and reducing isolated and vulnerable economy will be helpful to preserve economic sustainability of the countries in the region. Regional relations with the EU should be improved.

The region itself enjoys a number of competitive advantages including its proximity to the wealthy markets of the EU and favourable business environments that make essential to extend free trade agreements with the EU.

Some experts believe that whoever dominates the Black Sea can easily project power to the European continent, mainly in the Balkans and Central Europe, but also in the Eastern Mediterranean as well as the South Caucasus and the northern Middle East. This underlines the importance of the region in the international arena.

In this process not only relations with the EU but also between the US, China, Middle East and Central Asia countries play great role in the economic perspective of the region. In this context, Belt and Road Initiative launched by China 5 years ago carries also the potential to have an impact on the future of the Black Sea region.

Last week, TUSİAD hosted BRICA Istanbul Summit bringing together more than 20 countries of the Silk Road to discuss different aspects of the project including business opportunities,  the effect of digital transformation on companies, infrastructure projects, banking and regulations. We believe in the power of regional and global economic cooperations that encompass divers political, economic and social actors to complement the differences of each other. “Most great learning happens in groups. Collaboration is the stuff of growth.”

The value created by well-educated public officials, diplomats and young leaders is the key in building sustainable dialogue between the states. I specially want to thank BSEC for this organization bringing together young diplomats of the countries in the region providing an opportunity to strenghten mutual understanding.

“We may have all come on different ships, but we are in the same boat now.” And “People working together in a strong community with a shared goal and a common purpose can make the impossible, possible.”

Ladies and Gentleman,

“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” Looking forward to further fruitful cooperation, I would like to conclude my remarks by reiterating the business recommendations to the governments of the region since 2010 on several occasions for the revitalization of the wider Black Sea Region:

  • Refrain from raising new barriers to trade and investment, and hence improve the business environment by ensuring greater openness, transparency, non-discrimination, accountability and predictability of all policies and legislations;
  • Improve access to finance, particularly for small- and medium-sized enterprises, and to plan exit strategies, in consultation with the business community;
  • Pursue region-wide efforts for commercial law reform with the support of all relevant partners;
  • Take greater political initiative in diversifying national economies, which for the time being are in many cases overly-dependent on a very limited set of economic sectors;
  • Promote green growth;
  • Encourage the use of public-private partnerships as a mechanism for raising much needed investment in long-term projects, such as for infrastructure, as well as for trust building between governments and the private sector;
  • Favor private investment in state-of-the-art infrastructures for citizens (such as telecommunications, electricity, water), even in the most rural areas,
  • Work together with business to fight against corruption and to promote corporate governance initiatives by sharing best practices and creating sectoral common approaches;
  • Develop where needed, an attractive and stable tax system that is fair and transparent;
  • Place greater emphasis on fostering innovation and intellectual property rights protection in the region;
  • Encourage effective competitiveness, investment and private sector development in the region.
  • Engage more closely with educational institutions to develop strengthening of skills in the region, particularly for youth and for women, and better matching of those skills to both short-term and longer-term labour market needs;

Thank you very much for your attention

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