Istanbul, is leading the way of the locomotive cities of Turkish economy. According to the Turkish Statistical Institute’s data; the largest contribution to Turkey’s overall export performance is achieved by Istanbul on the basis of provinces. Our national overall exports reached 125 billion 765 million dollars in the January-September period of 2019. Istanbul, which has a share of more than 50 percent in the total of this figure, provided the highest contribution on the basis of provinces. In the first nine months of 2019, Istanbul’s exports amounted to 63 billion 621 million dollars.
Considered one of the capitals of world trade, Istanbul is home to the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce (ITO), the largest professional organization in the business world. The Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, which represents 81 professional groups and 400 thousand companies in Istanbul, is chaired by Şekib Avdagiç.
We have interviewed with Şekib Avdagiç who has been the chairman of the Board of Directors of Istanbul Chamber of Commerce since April 2018 for our ITM 2020 News magazine.
■ The textile sector, providing added value and undertaking the leading role in the closure of the current account deficit, is of capital importance for the Turkish economy, industry, and exports. Could you please explain your expectations and predictions about the investments and course of exports in the textile sector in 2019?
The textile sector is among the leading sectors with serious and important advantages from the past to the present in the international markets on behalf of our country. At the same time, the textile industry became the sector that produced the most added value, experienced in global competition, and finally greatly contributed to the closure of the current account deficit which was a problem for our country since 1980, when the Turkish economy adopted an export-based and outward-oriented growth model. For a very long time, it didn’t lose its seat as the most exporting sector to any other industries. As for today; as you know, general problems such as the recent conflicts in the world economy, contraction, etc. had their reflection on our economy.
The textile sector was also affected by all these developments. Unfortunately, this was reflected in our export rates. For instance, in October 2019, our textile exports decreased by 5.2 percent and reached to the amount of 887 million dollars. When we look at the first ten months of 2019, we see that our total textile and related raw material exports decreased by 5.5 percent and reached to the amount of 8.3 billion dollars. However, I must add that signs of recovery also make their presence known.
2019 export statistics indicate us another subtle point in terms of textile industry. In the January – October period of 2019, the highest increase in textile exports was recorded in Turkic Republics; namely Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan with an increase amount of 9.9 percent. The group of countries that our textile exports declined the most was the Asian and Oceania countries with a decrease of 13.4 percent. We must take the necessary measures to eliminate this market loss by paying attention to this fact. In this matter, both our companies and the Ministry of Commerce have an important assignment to determine the market policies that will compensate for the deficiencies.
Consequently, we can say that the textile sector has surpassed a troubled process with the least loss possible and that our economy will bring out a rapid recovery within the balancing period in 2020. I believe that the textile industry, which is among the most ambitious industries of the Turkish economy, possesses the power and the potential to set new acquisitions on the gains achieved so far.
‘‘We attach importance to the settlement of Istanbul’s image and perception as the ‘City of Exhibitions’”
■ The exhibition sector, which we name as the flue-free industry, makes a significant contribution to the national economies. For example; approximately 10 million people visited the exhibition organized in Germany in 2018. Between the years 2014 and 2017, the expenditures of the participants in the exhibitions in Germany were close to 14.5 billion Euros. What kind of steps should be taken in order to enhance the exhibition sector in our country which provides a big contribution to the national economy?
Let me start by adding what you say for Germany. Germany, at the end of World War II, was at the position that all its industrial cities were destroyed and the qualified manpower was lost, however, the point that they started to develop was the exhibitions. The Germans convinced the Allied commanders and rendered each of their important cities an exhibition center for a different scope.
We, as Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, have this understanding, too. Therefore, since 1882, we have been trying to place fairs at the center of our economic development. We want to permanently position the exhibition sector among the comparative superiorities of Istanbul. As the business world, we have assumed and put our hands on this issue. We help in the actualization of many trade exhibitions that will stimulate the city’s trade and production. In the same way, our organization organizes international fairs and mediates our companies to participate in global fairs to take a step forward in the international markets. We think that Istanbul is also the locomotive of our economy in the exhibition industry. Exhibition industry is one of the expression pitches of Istanbul’s brand value. That is why we attach great importance to the establishment of the image and perception of Istanbul as ‘The City of Fairs’. Today in Turkey, about 450 exhibitions are organized per year. 193 of these exhibitions are held in Istanbul. The major part of the exhibitions in other parts of our country is operating as the branches of the Istanbul World Trade Center, which is pioneered by ITO. However, this is not enough in order to further increase the strength of Turkey’s economy. Turkey does not need to refrain from investing more in the exhibitions. We need to increase the number of fairgrounds that can provide all kinds of opportunities to exhibitors and visitors in Istanbul, which is the most important point of attraction not only in the region but also in the world. Because exhibition organization is such an industry that every penny you invest comes back to you by reviving your economy.
■ What kind of joint activities can the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce engage with the organizers of large-scale international exhibitions in order to increase the number of visitors? Do you have any projects developed on this subject?
As the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, we strive to create the necessary conditions in exhibition organization business. Of course, we stand at an equal distance from all players in the sector, and we wish that their competitiveness under the conditions of the free market will have a positive effect on our exhibition organization industry. As you have stated in your question, I believe that our exhibition organization companies will succeed many more important achievements under the leadership of our ministries and professional organizations such as the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce. The biggest support we developed in this direction is putting Turkey’s largest exhibition area into service. We are now working on a variety of activities in order to further expand and improve this.We do not neglect the foreign trade side while working for exhibition organizations and draw new visions for our country, and we show special attention to cooperate with foreign commerce chambers and institutions abroad.
As a result, as the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, I would like to say that we see exhibition organizers as fearless and brave leaders of paths of the sectors. We use all our opportunities for the development of the sector both as the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce and the Istanbul World Trade Center. We closely follow the problems and agendas of the exhibition organization sector and continue to be a solution partner.
■ Because of the difficulty of obtaining the Schengen visa, the citizens of countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, and Egypt, who cannot go to the exhibitions in Europe, prefer exhibitions in Turkey. What kind of studies should be conducted to attract visitors, who are geographically closer to our country, to exhibitions in Turkey and especially in Istanbul?
As I mentioned before, the exhibitions themselves are a sector besides the vitality they bring to their related industry. Even an increase in the revenues from hosting the visitors to the exhibition is a very important economic gain. Turkey should be taking advantage of being a regional power through the economic breakthrough and development exuberance within the last 15 years and utilize it in the exhibition organization sector. We should because I don’t think we’ve utilized it enough. The first way to achieve this is to organize trade exhibitions in the related sectors, which trends on a global scale, such as the ITM Exhibition does and brings Turkey to the agenda of other countries. In this context, the ITM Exhibition is an important example in terms of demonstrating the new level of our exhibition organization capacity. Secondly, there should be activities to strengthen and support exhibitions. In other words, exhibitions should enable a dynamic structure in which the current situation of the sector in the world and in our country is discussed, new visions are drawn and the plans and designs for the future are reviewed rather than being just physical platforms where stands are built. It should be an area where there are buying and selling commissions interacting and results-oriented works are dealt with among B2Bs. I see that this is successfully carried out in Turkey, primarily by the ITM Exhibition, in many exhibitions. But the point we achieved so far is not enough, we must make it all the more comprehensive and content. I would also like to emphasize that we should not organize specialized exhibitions in the same sector in close dates and that will compete with each other. Every player in the sector is not a competitor of another, but a compliment.
The exhibition organization sector is like a ship. The actors of the sector are the passengers of that ship. If someone makes a move to harm other passengers on that ship, it will actually damage the ship, in the simplest sense, cause it to get off the course. Therefore, if we want to strengthen our sector instead of damaging it through international trade exhibitions, we must ensure that these exhibitions are organized as rare and concise exhibitions.
■ Can you please explain your thoughts on the contributions of the ITM exhibition to the Turkish economy and textile industry?
ITM Exhibition is a very large exhibition, which adds value not only to the textile industry but also to Istanbul with more than 1000 participating companies from approximately 100 countries and a record number of local and international visitors. I must say that Istanbul has an important contribution in the perception and branding of the city as a city of exhibitions. As the Chairman of the Board of Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, I am delighted to see the traces of a professional endeavor that will uplift the success of the ITM even higher than that of the previous year’s exhibition. The exhibition, which brings together the world’s textile technology leaders and the strong textile players of our country, has a serious experience in perceiving the needs of the Turkish textile industry, presenting new and different designs to the era, and determining the production understanding according to the needs of global markets. The exhibition organizers define ITM as a global brand, and I completely agree that. More importantly, I think this exhibition is a symbolic example of the international success of Turkish textiles.