Interview with H.E. Emre Yunt, Ambassador of Turkey to Qatar

Emre Yunt 20.06.2011
Photo caption:
HE H. Emre Yunt, Ambassador of Turkey to Qatar
“Arab Spring Brings Turkey and Qatar More Closer”
“ LNG Deal Would Greatly Enhance Bilateral Trade”
By Aparajita Mukherjee

The US$10 billion trade volume between Turkey and Qatar projected by QTBF is achievable in five years depending on the price of LNG, which is being negotiated between the two countries.

H.E. H. Emre Yunt, Ambassador of Turkey to Qatar, believes that the commercial potentials of the two countries have not yet fully explored.

Turkish-Qatari relations are based on a genuine friendship and fraternity between the two governments and peoples. We enjoy deep-rooted cultural and historical ties and Turkey holds this special bond in high esteem.

Way back in 2001, when HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani visited Turkey the legal framework for enhancing bilateral relations in all fields was laid out. The visit culminated in signing a number of agreements, including Agreement on Prevention of Double Taxation, the Agreement on Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments, and the Cooperation Agreement on Military Fields.

This has been followed by high-level visits from both sides, which paved the way for close political consultations. Mutual concerns for regional stability and finding better ways to solve problems faced by the countries in the region, especially the Arab Spring, brought Turkey and Qatar more close than ever before.

Talking of breadth of bilateral relations, HE H. Emre Yunt, Ambassador of Turkey to Qatar said, “Historically, Turkey has fraternal ties with Qatar. With two friendly governments, ours is an exceptional relationship which is based on mutual trust and common concern to address regional issues, especially given the present climate of unrest in many of the countries in the MENA region.”

In an exclusive chat with QBR, he talks about the main planks of the bilateral relations and says that, rather than concentrating on energy, Qatar and Turkey can benefit better by cashing on Turkish expertise in the construction sector.

QBR: What is the main thrust of the bilateral relations between Qatar and Turkey? Which sectors are the two countries looking at?

HE Yunt: Our relations go way back in history, in addition to which we have very strong cultural ties. In the recent years, the relationship between Turkey and Qatar has intensified because of several factors. First, we maintain exceptional political relations. Our leaders are very close friends – that helps a lot. The number of high-level official visits has increased over the years and, in recent times, we have been consulting closely with each other on regional issues. Having identical views on regional and international issues, Turkey and Qatar have been supporting each other in the preservation of peace, security and stability of the region, especially helping to improve the domestic climate of the countries in the region and beyond.

In the economic domain, there are more than 100 Turkish companies which are registered in the country, some with Qatari partners, some independently with specific projects (only till the projects last for the government projects, under special sanction from the Ministry of Business & Trade), mainly working in the infrastructure sector of the country.

The potential is much higher. And in the backdrop of the financial crisis, though both Qatar and Turkey have emerged relatively unscathed, it remains a fact that the main contributor to Turkish exports to Qatar consists of construction materials, demand for which suffers in an economic downturn. Demand for steel, iron or construction materials saw a nadir with the economic downturn, though of late, we see a pick-up in activity, as a result of which both existing Turkish companies as well as new ones, are bidding for tenders.

Turkish construction companies are eager to form joint venture projects with their Qatari counterparts and we could see more and more Turkish companies coming to Qatar looking for Qatari partners. On the other hand, as Turkey has the most favourable foreign investment climate it is natural that Turkey would be an attractive place for Qatari investment.

QBR: With the FIFA Bid Win for 2022, tell us about what the next two years look like for the bilateral equations.

HE Yunt: In the coming two years, more Qatari and Turkish companies will form joint ventures in various projects and the highlights would be the railway and metro projects, hotels, buildings, all of which will require contractors and sub-contractors on an increasing scale.

And given the innovative infrastructural projects that will gradually come up in the country, in the wake of the FIFA Bid win, it will require new expertise. The railway system, for instance, will need companies which have expertise in digging tunnels, laying out rail lines, and many top-notch Turkish companies have done this both in the nation, as well as the Balkan region.

One thing needs to be borne in mind that the specific FIFA 2022 related projects like stadiums will not be constructed just now. The facilities surrounding the event will need to be constructed closer to the event so that they do not get outdated.

QBR: In the almost two years that you have been here, what specific changes have been initiated in the relations between the two countries?

HE Yunt: Political consultation on regional issues is at an all-time high. Both governments have identical views on several regional and foreign policy issues.

This spills over to economic cooperation and several initiatives are being taken in the area of increasing the trade volume.

QBR: Currently, Turkish-Qatari bilateral trade is pegged at around $400 million plus. Could you elaborate on what else could contribute to increasing the trade volume, a thrust that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has consistently placed?

HE Yunt: The main thrust of bilateral trade is in construction activity. With more projects in the pipeline, it is a certainty that the figure will see a hike in the future.

On the energy front, both governments are still negotiating prices of natural gas, and Turkey is heavily dependent on natural gas. If the two parties can reach a right price for the LNG, the two countries can reach a much higher trade figure. High LNG price would send an inflationary spiral which will be counter-productive to the Turkish economy.

QBR: How effective is the Qatari Turkish Business Forum in sourcing business deals?

HE Yunt: The Forum is always associated with dignitary visits. For instance, in January last, as many as 400 businessmen from more than 260 companies were on a visit to Qatar. Many of these companies are already here; some came here for the first time. And they have met with Members of QCCI, prospecting for business opportunities.

QBR: Bilateral trade between Qatar and Turkey has the potential to reach $10 billion in the next couple of years from its present low levels, according to QTBF. What steps are being taken in this regard?

HE Yunt: The figure of US$10 billion is achievable, but not in a fortnight. It will take five years to achieve that and is dependent on the price of LNG that is being negotiated between the two countries. The negotiations are on for long-term energy contracts which will help a great deal in reaching the touted figure.

The second hinge is increasing the participation of Turkish construction companies in projects here which will hike the export figure too.

The third factor is the commercial potentials of the two countries have not yet fully explored. There are plenty of room for trade expansion.

QBR: Does the QTBF liaise with QCCI or QBA? And what are the outcomes of these liaisons?

HE Yunt: In recent months, Qatar Chamber of Commerce & Industry (QCCI) has set up a business panel which has sent Qatari businessmen to Istanbul and Bursa (in north-western Turkey) to study the market there and are in the process of forming partnerships. Such an initiative was done last year, with the QBA.

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