By Redha Sardar
ANKARA, March 18 (KUNA) -- Turkey is looking forward towards beefing up economic, trade, and investment cooperation with Kuwait, said Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek.
In an interview with KUNA, Simsek underlined the need for a free trade agreement to better benefit from the great potential of both countries.
The Turkish official made a long list of sectors that could be the focus of fruitful cooperation and joint investments.
Agriculture, water, energy, Islamic finance, textile and garment industry, engineering consultancy, petroleum, petrochemical and furniture industry, food production, contracting services, building materials production, construction, tourism and banking sectors all could be areas for cooperation between the two countries, Simsek said.
He noted that the Turkish-Kuwaiti relations have seen remarkable development over the last decade thanks to the reciprocal visits of senior officials from both countries, at the levels of leaders or ministers, senior officials and business people.
The distinguished relations between Turkey and Kuwait have been translated into 41 agreements, numerous protocols and memoranda of understanding for cooperation in a wide array of domains, he boasted.
Simsek stressed that the relations between Turkey and Kuwait are not confined to the economic aspect, but they are multi-faceted. The culture relations between the two nations are deeply rooted and currently flourishing, he said.
On trade relations, he estimated that the volume of trade exchange between the two country have risen three times from USD 165.6 million in 2002 to nearly USD 700 million in 2016.
The deputy primer identified mineral products, machinery, equipment, food, beverages, clothing, textiles, and petroleum products as the main Turkish exports to Kuwait and chemical products and furniture as most important Kuwaiti exports to Turkey.
Furthermore, the number of Kuwaiti tourists visiting Turkey have been steadily growing over the recent years from 8,000 in 2002 to 180,000 in 2016, despite the terror incidents that took place in Turkey in 2016, he clarified.
He said that this remarkable development portends a brighter and more fruitful future for cooperation in this sector.
In the same vein, Simsek said that the number of Kuwaitis who possess houses, apartments and several properties have been climbing in recent years.
Up to 1,744 Kuwaitis bought properties in Turkey last year making them the biggest third foreign nationals who own property in Turkey after both the Iraqis and the Saudis, he disclosed.
He pointed out that there are 271 Kuwaiti companies and firms operating in Turkey since 2004 mainly in the financial, real estate, commercial and industrial sectors with total investments estimated at USD two billion.
Simsek described Kuwait as one of the most important economic partners of Turkey in the Gulf region.
Since 2005, Kuwait has set a list of investment objectives of both countries, he said, adding that Turkey is greatly interested in investment opportunities and privatization plans in Kuwait.
Turkish companies are currently executing 30 projects in Kuwait, including the USD 6.3 billion-worth project of developing Kuwait international airport, he said.
He viewed the joint investments as the engine of cooperation relations between Turkey and Kuwait.
Simsek concluded that the current level of cooperation between the two countries is admirable, hoping relation would evolve more to reach the new height. (end) rs.ibi