Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will make official visits to Japan, Singapore and Malaysia in the first days of the new year to enhance economic relations with the three Asia Pacific countries, with a focus on the defense industry.

Prime Minister Erdogan to visit East Asia to enhance cooperation in economy!

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will make official visits to Japan, Singapore and Malaysia in the first days of the new year to enhance economic relations with the three Asia Pacific countries, with a focus on the defense industry.

Erdoğan leaves on Sunday and is scheduled to travel from Jan. 5 to 11. A delegation of ministers, deputies and high-level officials is expected to accompany the prime minister on his visits, including Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu as well as new Cabinet appointee Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekçi. Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz and Energy Minister Taner Yıldız are also scheduled to join Erdoğan during his visit.

Turkey will collaborate with Japanese firm Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to develop a 1,500-horsepower-class engine and transmission system for Turkey’s Altay tanks, Yilmaz told the Japanese Nikkei daily on Dec. 28.

Turkey is developing the Altay main battle tank with South Korea while the engine will be Japanese-made. The plans call for a prototype testing in the next two years and equipping the army with the tanks by 2016, Yilmaz said.

According to the report, Turkey initially plans to buy 250 units and may also sell Altays to “friendly ally nations” with Japanese approval, according to the defense minister.

“Japan and Turkey each have their own approaches to exporting defense equipment and intellectual property,” the report read. “Exports to third countries will be controlled by both Japan and Turkey and will be based on an agreement between us,” the minister said. Yılmaz also floated the idea of jointly working on infrared detectors, fuel cells for submarines and ships and other technologies, the report says.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) for establishing a science university in İstanbul for providing a venue for Japanese engineers to share their knowledge of nuclear power and other disciplines will also be signed between Turkey and Japan during Erdoğan’s visit from Jan. 6-8, a senior official from the Energy Ministry confirmed with Sunday’s Zaman.

During Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Turkey in October, Turkey and Japan signed an agreement to jointly construct a nuclear power plant in the city of Sinop. The two countries also signed an agreement to cooperate on science, nuclear and technology initiatives. Both Erdoğan and Abe also expressed determination to deepen the strategic partnership between the two countries.

Malaysia, another stop on the prime minister’s tour, is Turkey’s third-largest trading partner in Southeast Asia. However, there is a trading gap in terms of export-import volume weighted against Turkey. In 2010, Turkish exports to the country were $225 million while imports from Malaysia stood at $1.124 billion.

The president of the Turkish-Malaysian Business Council of the Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEİK) and CEO of Turkish defense firm FNSS, Nail Kurt, told Sunday’s Zaman that the Turkish prime minister’s visit to Malaysia will have great importance in increasing trade volume in a more balanced manner.

“Both countries will become a trading center for each other. While Malaysia is an important center for Turkey in Southeast Asia, Turkey will become an economic hub for Malaysia to reach Middle Eastern and European markets,” said Kurt.

Turkey mainly exports defense industry products, carpets, flooring products, machinery, tobacco and food items to Malaysia. Turkey’s main imports from Malaysia are animal fats, vegetable oil, electronic products, machinery, textile products and clothing. Malaysia’s share of Turkey’s total exports is 0.19 percent while its share of imports is 0.6 percent.

FNSS signed $600 billion armored combat vehicle agreement with Malaysia in 2011. Stressing that FNSS has started exporting 8×8 armored vehicles called PARS for the Malaysian army, Kurt who will also be accompanying Erdoğan on his trip, said FNSS will sign new agreements during Erdoğan’s visit.

Kurt also said a free trade agreement (FTA) between Turkey and Malaysia that has been under negotiation will also be finalized. The decision to explore the feasibility of having an FTA was made through several meetings held between Malaysian officials and Turkish officials since late 2009. On Aug. 12, 2009, Turkey proposed sending a representation from its Undersecretariat of the Prime Ministry for Foreign Trade to Malaysia to have exploratory talks on the prospect of setting up an FTA.  The two countries commenced talks on a possible FTA back in 2010.

Turkey’s relations with Singapore have been intensifying as bilateral economic initiatives have gained momentum in recent years. On a visit to the country in early July, Davutoğlu said Turkey values the country’s assistance to Turkey as a dialogue partner with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Although Turkey opened its embassy in Singapore in 1985, Turkey’s relations with the Asian country gained strength when Singapore opened an embassy in Ankara last year. The two countries, located far away from each other, succeeded in establishing good relations because of their common interests in economy and finance.

“The relationship between Singapore and Turkey is growing stronger. Singapore’s opening an embassy in Turkey can be seen as a sign of the good friendship and partnership between the two countries. As we don’t have many embassies in the world — fewer than 50 — our decision is a clear demonstration of our belief that we can do much more with Turkey,” Lorling Lee, the chief of mission of the new Embassy of Singapore in Ankara, said during an exclusive interview with Today’s Zaman in August.

“Both countries plan to begin negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement [FTA] and this will provide a good basis to enhance bilateral trade and investments,” she said.

Today’s Zaman

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