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Israel, Turkey promote increasing bilateral trade

On an official visit to Turkey, Minister of Economy and Industry Orna Barbivai met with her counterparts, advancing the re-convening of the joint economic conference.
Israel Barbivai

Israel's minister of economy and industry, Orna Barbivai, is currently in Turkey, on a first official visit since 2009.

Since the visit of President Isaac Herzog in Ankara last March, the embassy in Ankara and the consulate in Istanbul have significantly enhanced contacts with Turkish government ministries and with local business entities. Both Israel and Turkey are eager to cooperate. 

Israeli diplomats coordinated a series of meetings between Barbivai and Turkish ministers, representatives of the Turkish presidency and senior Turkish businesspeople. With her are Trade Commissioner Ohad Cohen from the economy and industry ministry, Deputy Director of Economics Yael Ravia-Zadok from the foreign ministry, Israel's newly designated ambassador to Turkey Irit Lillian, and Matan Safran, the new Israeli economic attaché in Turkey.

Barbivai aims to boost trade and economic cooperation between the two countries, and met today with Turkish Industry and Technology Minister Mustafa Varank, Turkish Trade Minister Mehmet Mus and other senior officials.

Barbivai and Varank discussed tightening cooperation in technological fields, expanding cooperation in innovation and in the start-up industry, cooperation in small and medium-sized businesses, and inviting Turkish commercial delegations to visit Israel, including Turkish retail chains.

In the meeting with Mus, the ministers discussed re-convening the joint Israel-Turkey economic conference, a government-to-government framework to discuss bilateral trade issues. Initially, Israel and Turkey agreed to convene every two years, but the last one convened in 2009, because in 2010, Ankara practically severed ties with Jerusalem.

Before departing to Turkey, Barbivai said that renewing the joint economic conference for the first time in 13 years "would be a significant milestone in increasing the volume of trade and creating job opportunities. It is an integral part of the fabric of the economic agreements that Israel is working to promote."

The conference could simplify and expand trade through reducing mutual tariffs and standardization of goods. It could also encourage economic cooperation through mutual commercial delegations, conferences and other joint events.

Israel-Turkey trade relations have continued over the years, even when diplomatic tensions were at their highest. Still, bilateral trade has certainly picked up in recent months. Israeli media reported yesterday that more than two million Israelis traveled abroad during September, the Jewish holiday period. One of the leading destinations was Turkey.

Speaking with Al-Monitor, Ohad Cohen said that the Israeli and Turkish economies are complementing each other, hence the great potential of boosting bilateral trade.

"Climate change is a sector of great interest to both countries. The same is true for renewable energies, water treatment, water management, and food security," the trade commissioner said. "Then we have the 4.0 Industry, of using technologies to improve production, and the whole industry of digitization, both in production and in the interface between the government and the citizens, in every aspect of life." Life science, especially following the pandemic, is also "an enormous field which could include export and import of medical equipment, or joint ventures on the management of health systems,’’ he said.

Cohen said that the meetings which took place today in Turkey were all extremely positive, and both sides are interested in convening the joint economic conference as soon as possible.

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