January 26th, 2012
11:32 AM GMT
Sakyra, Turkey (CNN) - Turkey has in the past focussed its trade on Europe, but with Europe's growing economic woes and a new political era in the Middle East, Turkey is slowly turning its political and economic attention east.
Orhan Ozer is president and CEO of Toyota Turkey. He told CNN’s Rima Maktabi: “Turkey has lots of advantages in respect of the geographical advantages, in respect to the location of the country at the middle of Europe, Middle East – even Central Asia.”
“Also the population is young, they are very dedicated, qualified, experienced and they are very ambitious for their work,” he added
“Starting from the republic until the 1990s, beginning of 2000, Turkey was just looking at the West,” said Sabiha Gündoğar, director of the foreign policy program at the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation.
“It is still important but it is not the only foreign-policy goal for Turkey,” he added. "Turkey started to discover, and I can say now it discovered, and is improving its relations with its neighbors, be it the East, be it the more South.”
In 2002, Asia's foreign direct investment in Turkey totalled $1 billion; in 2010 the number jumped to $18 billion. During a recent visit to Ankara the Malaysian PM Najib Razak agreed with his Turkish counterpart to set a new target for bilateral trade, raising it from its current $1.3 billion to $5 billion.
This Asian-Turkish economic connection is welcomed by big conglomerates like Dogus group, a Turkish firm that focuses on everything from financial services to media operations.
“We are receiving investment appetite from Far East, not recently from the neighboring countries, or the near East, but we are receiving some interest from the Far East, like Korea, Indonesia, India, even China,” says Dogus Group executive vice president Levent Veziroglu.
But Turkey is also reaching out to politically unstable countries in the Middle East. In October 2011, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan led a delegation of more than 200 businessmen on a tour of Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya - countries trying to find stability and help in rebuilding.
“We know the region, we know the culture, we have some historical ties with those countries, so it’s very natural if we see the Turkish economy will expand its limits towards those countries,” said Veziroglu.
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