Turkey, Kyrgyzstan Aim to Boost Trade

Image A week ago, Kyrgyz Prime Minister Almazbek Sharshenovich Atambayev arrived in Turkey for a two-day visit, meeting with top officials and attending the Turkey-Kyrgyzstan Trade and Investment Forum organised by Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists.

"This is exactly the time to invest [in Kyrgyzstan]," Atambayev said in Ankara. "We are brothers and friends. We have a history we are proud of. Our future will also be common and glorious."

Despite the cultural and historical ties, the two countries have struggled to boost bilateral economic ties.

"Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have gas. Kazakhstan has oil and gas. Tajikistan has aluminum," explained Oleg Samukhin, transport economist from the USAID Regional Trade Liberalisation and Customs Project. "Kyrgyzstan does not have much to offer."
Trade between Turkey and Kyrgyzstan has been relatively small -- amounting to $160m in 2010, with $130m coming from Turkish exports. In comparison, Turkey's trade with Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan amounted to $2 billion each, and approximately $1 billion and $360m with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, respectively.

On Wednesday (April 27th), Turkey donated $61m to Kyrgyzstan and wrote off the Central Asian country's $51m debt. The two countries also removed visa requirements and vowed to boost bilateral trade to up to $1 billion in the next five years.

"Reaching this goal might not be easy because of Kyrgyzstan's economic situation. It needs a lot of effort," said Central Asia expert Salih Dogan of the Ankara-based think tank USAK.

"Kyrgyzstan cannot compete with the cheaper Chinese products," acknowledges Alisher Sanarbek Uulu of the Kyrgyzstan Market Association.

According to Sanarbek Uulu, the decision to grant Turkish citizens visa-free travel to Kyrgyzstan is a step in the right direction in boosting trade. "Turkish businessmen can come here and study the market and find partners easier without a visa," he said. "This can attract more Turkish investors in Kyrgyzstan."

Currently there are about 300 Turkish firms operating in Kyrgyzstan, which together have invested $500m in the Central Asian country, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan said.

Turkish businesses, however, face a difficult environment due to political and economic instability in Kyrgyzstan.

Turkish business owner Orhan Eker opened a restaurant in the capital Bishkek eight years ago. "I wish the government would provide us with insurance," he said, worried that his restaurant might get destroyed if another revolution erupts.

Another Turkish businessman, Aspalan, the owner of a furniture store in Bishkek, moved to Kyrgyzstan three and half years ago. Before opening his store, he did extensive research on conducting business in different Central Asian countries.

Kyrgyzstan seemed the best option to him because it was the most democratic and open.

Even so, it has not been easy.

"There is not as much business as I expected," Alpaslan said. "If the revolutions stop and the country became more stable, business will grow."

Despite the unstable nature, both Alpaslan and Eker plan to stay in Bishkek. Source: SETimes.com
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07