By Cansu Dikme
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AA) - Turkey is on Taiwan's radar, though not a part of its South Asia initiative policy, a Turkish representative in Taiwan said.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Murat Baklaci, representative at Turkish Trade Office in Taipei, said: “Taiwan adopted a South Asia initiative policy. Besides this, it shows a great interest in Turkey and attaches importance to it."
“Though not part of its initiative to place importance on our country, Turkey is on Taiwan’s radar as a country at the Asian-most end,” said Baklaci.
Baklaci cited the rise in the recent figures of Taiwanese tourists visiting Turkey and said direct flights of Turkish Airlines almost reached their full capacity.
“In 2017, 70,000 people travelled to Turkey from Taiwan. We expect this figure to top 90,000 in 2018.
“Also, the Turkish Airlines flights are rather full. The occupancy rate is 94.5 percent for the whole year,” Baklaci stated.
He underscored the Turkish national flag carrier’s role in Taiwan’s interest in Turkey, saying its direct flights between Istanbul and Taipei -- launched in 2015 -- are one reason.
“Turkish Airlines plans to increase the number of flights by adding two more a week [to reach nine] due to the high mutual demand,” he said.
- Economic relations
Economic and touristic motives are behind the high demand, Baklaci said.
“For 10 months, I have constantly come across Taiwanese businesspeople who want to make investments in Turkey, especially in the machinery sector,” Baklaci said.
Baklaci was appointed as the Turkish representative of the Taiwan-Turkey Trade Office in December 2017.
He also mentioned two firms involved in electric motors and machinery equipment that are willing to make an investment in Turkey, while citing another company on solar energy that already made an investment in the Mediterranean Antalya province a few months ago.
Taiwan, an energy-poor island, strives to improve its industrial production for supporting its economy. The country prioritizes high value-added technological production areas, particularly renewable technologies, to expand its export product line-up.
The Turkish solar sector is among the high-potential markets and Taiwan aims at developing these kinds of solar foreign markets.
Stating that the current trade volume between Turkey and Taiwan is around $1.7 billion, Baklaci said Turkey’s exports to the country are almost $300 million.
The most imported products, on the other hand, are electronics and machinery equipment, he added.
Taiwan exports chemical and textile products, as well as olive oil and agricultural products, including figs, apricots and hazelnuts.
Meanwhile, Turkey will start exporting cherries to Taiwan in 2019, Baklaci said, adding the pre-export process concluded following the visit of a site inspection delegation to Turkey this year to observe the picking, stocking, packaging as well as the cooling chain.
“This is a startup to bring Turkish agricultural products to Taiwan. A memorandum of understanding on agricultural products was recently signed. So, cherries are an important product for us,” he said.
- Cultural, touristic ties
He added: “Our next goal is to expand the range of agricultural products being exported.”
Asserting that Taiwanese people have a great sense of wonder about Turkey, Baklaci said: “Especially, Cappadocia is in the limelight.”
He also said the Taiwanese voice interest in Turkish cuisine.
“Tour companies say Taiwanese taste Turkish cuisine wherever they go and say it is delicious.”
Baklaci said tour companies plan to offer different tour programs to the Taiwanese, giving an eastern Turkey tour as an example.
Stressing the “high tourist potential” for Turkey, Baklaci said Taiwan is a cultural draw for Turkish people in return.
He also voiced hope for the future of cultural and touristic relations between Turkey and Taiwan.
“Our biggest goal is to increase the number of tourists,” Baklaci said.
- Taiwan respects Turkey’s aid to Syrian refugees
Turkey and Taiwan have no diplomatic relations, but this is not an obstacle to building cooperation in various areas, according to Baklaci.
Among them is collaboration in aid to Syrian refugees in Turkey, he said, mentioning a Taiwanese relief foundation operating in Istanbul and the southern Hatay province.
He said the foundation provides education and free health care to Syrian refugees in Turkey.
“Taiwanese people respect Turkey’s hosting 3.5 million Syrian refugees,” Baklaci said.
Education, health and security are other areas of cooperation between Turkey and Taiwan.
In September, a memorandum of understanding was inked between the national libraries of both countries, he said.
He also said they countries are working on cooperation between their police forces.
When concluded, a mechanism will be established to pursue counter-terror activities closely, Baklaci stated.