The history behind Turkey’s success

The export industry alone accounts for one-fifth of the Turkish economy. The driving force behind this success is the export-focused growth policy adopted in the 1990s.

Exports in Turkey surpassed the $1-billion benchmark 43 years ago. Today this figure is pushing the $150 billion mark, which is not at all surprising. This extraordinary qualitative and quantitative transformation of Turkey’s foreign trade is the result of certain historic decisions and systematic policies. January 24, 1980, was one of the most momentous days in the history of Turkey’s economy. The structural transformation of the economy came with the announcement of new economic policies that day by Turgut Özal, the person behind the polices and Turkey’s eighth president in the making. Turkey adopted an open-market economy with global trade at its heart replacing decades of conservatism that marked the years following the establishment of the Republic. Turkey introduced revolutionary initiatives with the goal of integrating into the global economy and paving the way for new private investments. The decisions taken on January 24 quickly bore fruit, and within a decade — in other words, by 1990 — Turkey’s exports reached $13 billion. Furthermore, the share of industrial products in total exports rose to 80 percent, up from 36 percent during this period.

Surging number of partners signed in 1995 took foreign trade to a whole new level in Turkey. The agreement put forward the free circulation of commercial products with EU countries, and it didn’t take long before the results were reflected in the figures. Turkey quadrupled its GDP, and foreign trade volume soared. Exports to EU countries increased, and Turkey became a crucial trade partner of many countries. Germany and the UK in particular stood out as partners with the market diversification in the 2000s. While the range of items exported by Turkey swelled, new export countries were added to the list. The third wave of momentum that began in 2002 was undoubtedly brought on by the country’s political stability and consistent economic policies. The finance industry was completely overhauled to withstand crises, an investment-friendly environment was created, new incentive policies were developed, and the EU membership process picked up speed. The government handled exports as state policy, organizing hundreds of trade delegation visits to all corners of the world with public authorities attending personally. This upsurge cannot be explained by the efforts of our exporters alone. The “zero problems with neighbors” policy promoted at every level of the state was in full force at the time. Foreign trade figures got a boost from the warm and close relationships developed as a result of a series of trade delegation visits lead by Tayyip Erdoğan, the then Prime Minister. Exports channels were wide open due to the development of friendly relationships over the years not only with Iraq but also with many other countries such as Egypt, Syria, Libya, Algeria, Nigeria, and Japan. The “no country will be left unvisited” approach often voiced by the Turkish Exporters Assembly points to the policy.

2023 targets

2010 was a milestone in terms of exports. That year, the “2023 Export Strategy,” developed under the leadership of the Turkish Exporters Assembly, was adopted as state policy. The strategy plans for Turkey to increase its exports to $500 billion by 2023, the centennial of the Republic, and rank in the top ten economies worldwide. In 2016, Turkey is currently very close to making this happen. The past year was rough for the world economy, but promising for Turkey. In 2015, Turkey not only raised its share in global exports as well as in the EU and oil-exporting countries markets to an all-timehigh, but for the first time in history, exports accounted for one-fifth of the economy. Now, Turkey has set its eyes on increasing the share of technology and added value in exports. This goal can be achieved through innovation, R&D, and branding. To sum up, the targets have been set and plans are underway to achieve them by 2023.