Turkey, Macedonia aim to double trade volume

SKOPJE, Macedonia - The prime ministers of Turkey and Macedonia announced Tuesday their joint aim to increase their bilateral trade volume to $1 billion, from a current level of around $400 million, by widening the scope of their Free Trade Agreement.

"We have come to an agreement-in-principle to expand the scope of the Free Trade Agreement that was initialled in 2000," Turkish Premier Ahmet Davutoglu told a joint press conference with his Macedonian counterpart Nikola Gruevski in Macedonia's capital, Skopje.

He made the remarks following private talks with Gruevski and an interdelegational meeting as part of his two-day formal visit to the Balkan country, where he came to discuss bilateral political, economic and commercial relations as well as exchange views on regional and international developments.

Davutoglu maintained that the figure already exceeded $375 million in the first 10 months of 2014 and may reach $450 million by the end of the year.

"It means a rise of around 15 percent in our mutual trade. We must reach a trade volume level of $1 billion within three to four years’ time," he said.

The premier stated that economy ministers of the two countries will hold a meeting in January to discuss the details of broadening the Free Trade Agreement.

"Turkey is ready to sign the Free Trade Agreement with Macedonia which will be the broadest one we have inked with other countries so far. It will include the agriculture and services sectors. In this way, we believe we can contribute to the Macedonian economy and enable an increase in Macedonia's exports to Turkey," he added.

Davutoglu said the formation of a free trade zone between the two countries could also help boost exports to Turkey through investments.

"The more Macedonia opens to investments and eases investments, the shorter it will take us to have Macedonia among our first five trade partners and then as one of the top two countries thanks to the opportunities to be brought by the Free Trade Agreement," he said.

The Turkish premier reiterated Ankara's support for Macedonia's membership of NATO, stressing the key role of Skopje in the political and economic stability of the wider Balkans region.

For his part, Macedonian Premier Gruevski voiced his belief that they could realize their goal of having $1 billion in trade volume in a very short time.

"Our duty is to provide the necessary conditions and enable a positive environment," he said.

He called upon Turkish businessmen to increase their investments in Macedonia especially in the tourism and agriculture sectors, adding that they could also conduct business in partnership with Macedonian businessmen in third country markets.

Gruevski also thanked Turkey for its support to his country in their integration process into Euro-Atlantic institutions, especially NATO.

- Turkey-Macedonia to cooperate over Ottoman archives

The Macedonian prime minister also touched upon his ministry's efforts to provide education in Ottoman Turkish and grant related scholarships to students who want to study the Ottoman archives.

Davutoglu welcomed his Macedonian counterpart's idea of easing the education of students and academics in Ottoman-era studies and opening the archives to Macedonian academics.

"We are ready to provide all kinds of support whenever needed. It is our mutual cultural heritage," he said.

The Turkish premier also met representatives of the Turkish community in Macedonia and was received by Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov. 

He is scheduled to attend an event on the sidelines of Turkish Education Day on Dec. 21. The official festival of Macedonia's Turkish community has been celebrated since 2007.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who joined Davutoglu’s two-day visit to Skopje, held a meeting with his Macedonian counterpart Nikola Poposki.

He underlined that Turkish students who are studying in Macedonia are very important in terms of establishing a strong bridge between the two states.

The Macedonian minister Poposki announced he would make an official visit to Turkey in 2015 and extended his thanks to Turkish entrepreneurs for inviting his country.

The two officials also exchanged their views on regional issues and political developments in neighboring countries during the meeting.

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