By Enes Kaplan, Yesim Sert Karaaslan, Ata Ufuk Seker
BUDAPEST (AA) – Turkey and Hungary should increase bilateral trade by building on their good political ties, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday.
"Despite the positive developments, the current state in our economic relations is not sufficient. We can move this further," Erdogan told a Turkish-Hungarian Business Forum meeting in the capital Budapest.
Erdogan said economies of Turkey and Hungary were not in a competition but they complemented each other.
"Especially, we have important cooperation potential in the areas of tourism, energy, construction, logistics, and food industry," the Turkish president said.
Erdogan said the bilateral trade volume between the two countries in 2009 stood at $1.5 billion, while it climbed to $ 2.6 billion in 2017.
He said bilateral trade reached $1.8 billion in the first eight months of 2018, adding that the two nations should set a target of over $5 billion.
"Loans provided by the Hungarian Investment Agency and a visa waiver program for our businesspeople will undoubtedly expand our investments here," Erdogan said.
Erdogan also added that Turkey considered Hungary as a commercial base and one of the most important routes to transport products to Europe.
"It will serve our win-win vision to see Hungary as a center for our products to be stored and exported to Europe, rather than just being seen as a transit route," Erdogan said.
Erdogan paid an official two-day visit to Hungary on Monday and Tuesday upon the invitation of his Hungarian counterpart Janos Ader.
– $5 billion trade target
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Turkish-Hungarian Business Forum meeting, Nail Olpak, the head of Turkish Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEIK) said they intend to further strengthen and develop the trade relations between the two countries.
Recalling that Hungary and Turkey had agreed upon the establishment of a High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council five years ago, Olpak said: "We set some $5 billion trade volume target that day. While we achieved an increase of 38 percent, we are still hovering around $2.6 billion in trade volume."
The first meeting of the cooperation council was held during Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's visit to Turkey in 2013. The second meeting followed in 2015 in Budapest and the third one in Ankara in 2017 under the chairmanship of the then Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and Orban. The fourth meeting will be held in Budapest in 2019.
Olpak also stressed on a problem of providing bilateral transit permits for trucks carrying goods between Turkey and Hungary, adding that the number of permits issued had dropped by 60 percent compared to last year.
"If we are not able to mutually take trucks to each other's countries, we cannot talk about the increase of our mutual exports. Of course, we desire a quick and fair solution," he added.
Adnan Polat, the head of Turkey-Hungary Business Council, said that Turkish producers eyeing trade and exports in Europe should use Hungary as a commercial base.
Around 80,000 Hungarian tourists visited Turkey in 2017. There are approximately 2,500 Turkish citizens residing in Hungary, according to the Turkish Foreign Ministry.