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Turkey´s relations with the Latin American and the Caribbean Countries

 

Turkish-Latin American relations date back to the 19th century. There had been several waves of migration from the Ottoman Empire to Latin America from the 1860's till the end of World War I. Those emigrants, mostly Arabs, were called "El Turco", as they had Ottoman passports.

Diplomatic and consular contacts between the Ottoman Empire and some Latin American countries started in the late 19th Century. Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and proclamation of the Republic of Turkey under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's leadership, the number of resident Turkish diplomatic missions in Latin America has increased. Today, Turkey has resident Embassies in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela and a Consulate General in Sao Paolo-Brazil. The accreditation list has been enlarged to include all 33 countries in the Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC) region.

Turkey's relations with the region have always been based on friendship, but remained stagnant until 1990’s. A fundamental obstacle preventing Turkish-Latin American relations from reaching the desired level has been geographical remoteness. President H.E. Mr. Süleyman Demirel’s visit Argentina, Brazil and Chile in April 1995 constituted an important cornerstone in Turkish-Latin American relations. It was the first official visit to Latin America by a Turkish President in history.

Initiative for Latin America and the Caribbean

During the last ten years, in line with its multi-dimensional foreign policy, Turkey pursued a more active policy towards the region with the aim of strengthening its relations. In this regard, in order to define how and in which areas Turkey’s relations with Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC) countries can be enhanced, several meetings were held in the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the participation of our Ambassadors in Latin America, Turkish public and private sector representatives and Honorary Consuls of LAC countries in Turkey in September 1998. At the end of these meetings the "Action Plan for Latin America and the Caribbean" was prepared and put into effect. It was a road map for political and economic openings to the region.

Turkey was consistent in its opening up policy to the region. Within this frame, the year 2006 was declared as “the Year of Latin America and Caribbean” in Turkey. In this context, Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Industry, Trade and Economy; representatives of the business organizations and academicians from the region were invited and had contacts with government institutions and private sector representatives during “the Latin American and Caribbean Week” which was organized in Istanbul and Ankara between 5-11 June 2006. Honorary Consuls in the LAC countries were invited as well and briefed on Turkey’s foreign policy orientations.

Political relations

In line with Turkey’s multi faceted foreign policy objectives and its vision to build upon the opportunities the LAC region provides, Turkey gives priority to the exchange of high level visits and meetings in order to strengthen political relations with countries of the region; concluding trade, economic, military, cultural and technical cooperation agreements to solidify the existing legal framework; establishing business councils, participating at fairs, initiating promotional activities to increase trade; and enlarging diplomatic representation and cultural interaction to ensure better and more accurate presentation.

In this framework, mutual high level visits between Turkey and countries of the region have gained momentum. Since 2009, Presidents of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica and St. Vincent and Grenadines; Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay and Venezuela have visited Turkey, our Prime Minister has visited Mexico and Brazil, and our Minister has paid a visit to Brazil. During this period, Political Consultations have been conducted with Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Cuba, Peru and Venezuela.

Legal framework of the relations between Turkey and countries of the region has been completed to a large extent. Political consultation mechanisms have been established with 14 countries (Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Cuba, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Paraguay, Venezuela). An “Action Plan for Strategic Partnership” has been concluded with Brazil during the official visit of Prime Minister Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Brazil between 25-29 May, 2010.

To enhance parliamentary relations with the countries of the region, Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Groups for 12 LAC countries (Argentina, Brazil, Jamaica, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Chile, Uruguay, Venezuela) have been established in the Turkish Grand National Assembly, and many parliaments have likewise reciprocated.

The number of Turkish diplomatic representation in the LAC countries has been increased and efforts are underway for more. In this regard, Turkish Embassies in Bogota-Colombia and Lima-Peru became operational in February 2010 and March 2010, increasing the number of the Turkish Embassies in the region to eight. The Turkish Consulate General in Sao Paulo-Brazil became operational in November 2009. New diplomatic and consular missions are being planned. In this framework, Turkish Embassy in Quito will be operational in 2012. LAC countries have reciprocated by increasing their representations in Turkey. With the establishment of the Ecuadorian, Peruvian and Colombian Embassies in Ankara, the number of LAC resident Embassies in Turkey has reached nine.

Turkey’s Honorary Consuls in the region are also promoting and representing Turkey as well as promulgating the issues that are important for Turkish foreign policy. While the number of Turkey’s Honorary Consuls in the region is currently 29, the countries of the region have 25 Honorary Consuls in Turkey.

Economic relations

Latin America and the Caribbean region (LAC), with a population of 580 million people, a GDP of more than 6 trillion US Dollars and a trade volume of almost 1,76 trillion US Dollars has increasingly become an area of opportunities. Foreign investments in the region have exceeded 76 billion US Dollars in 2009. During the last 10 years remarkable improvements have been recorded with regard to average per capita income and living standards.

In line with the goal of developing our economic and trade relations with the countries in the region, as one of the priorities of the Action Plan, the Undersecretariat of Foreign Trade, in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is implementing a Strategy for Increasing Trade with LAC countries since 2006.

In this respect, Economic and Trade Cooperation agreements have been signed with 13 countries (Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Guatemala, Guyana, Jamaica, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Chile, Uruguay). The Joint Economic Commissions based on these agreements contribute to enhancing our economic relations with those countries.

While Turkey’s trade volume with region was 919Million US Dollars in 2000, in 2008 the trade volume reached almost 5,5 billion US Dollars. Turkey’s trade volume has increased by 15-20% every year for the last 8 years. In 2009 however, under the negative effects of the global financial crisis, Turkey’s trade volume with the region decreased considerably to 4 billion US Dollars. Currently it is increasing again, having reached to 5,4 billion US Dollars in 2010. In the first 11 months of 2011, Turkey’s trade volume surpassed 7 billion US Dollars with an increase of 50% with respect to the same period of 2010.

 

İthalat

İhracat

Toplam Dış Ticaret

2000

631

288

919

2001

451

387

838

2002

644

318

962

2003

1.182

297

1.478

2004

1.481

526

2.007

2005

2.035

685

2.719

2006

2.466

889

3.355

2007

3.119

1.063

4.182

2008

3.820

1.730

5.550

2009

2.762

1.275

4.037

2010

3.564

1.836

5.400

2010 January-November

3.206

1.662

4.868

2011 January-November

4.973

2.285

7.258

*Ministry of Economy data (Million USD)

Our highest trade volume was with Brazil in the first 11 months of 2011 with 2,7 billion US Dollars. Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Chile followed with 756 million, 695 million, 667 million and 569 million US Dollars, respectively.

The First Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was signed with Chile in 2009 and entered into force on 1 March 2011. Negotiations continue for a FTA with Ecuador, Colombia and MERCOSUR. Moreover, Turkey aims for negotiations to conclude FTAs with other countries such as El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama and Peru as well as with CARICOM.

Turkey also attributes importance to establishing Business Councils with the countries in the region. In addition to the Turkey-Brazil Business Council established in 2006, founding agreement of Turkey-Mexico Business Council was signed on 11 December 2008.

Investments to the region from Turkey will certainly broaden the perspectives. In this framework, TPAO/TPIC is active in oil producing countries like Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela. Furthermore, Brazilian oil company PetroBras and TPAO/TPIC jointly carried out oil exploration projects in the Black Sea in 2010 and 2011.

Turkey provides humanitarian, development and technical assistance to the countries of the region. In this respect, Turkey has sent humanitarian aid to the Central American and Caribbean countries after several hurricanes and lately to Haiti and Chile following the devastation of major earthquakes. Besides the aid in kind, Turkey has contributed 1 million US Dollars to Haiti and pledged to undertake a project with a budget of additional 1 million US Dollars. Turkish Government donated 500 thousand US Dollars to Chile after the earthquake.

The Latin America Research Center in Ankara University, inaugurated by Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Davutoğlu in 2009, will make a significant contribution to the cultural and academic dimensions of Turkey’s relations with the region. On the other hand, the Turkish History and Cultural Center in Havana University will be operational soon.

Relations With the Regional Organizations

33 LAC counties play an active role in international organizations, particularly in the UN and the UN agencies. Brazil (2010-2011) and Colombia (2011-2012) are currently members of the UN Security Council. Moreover, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina are members of G-20 together with Turkey.

The EU-LAC Summits are held every 2 years. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has attended the EU-LAC Summit in May 2010 and delivered a speech for the first time to the leaders of all member countries.

A multitude of regional organizations and initiatives exist in the Latin America and the Caribbean. In addition to the two organizations in which Turkey has the observer status, namely the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), Turkey is keenly following the developments concerning other regional organizations like the Union of the South American Nations (UNASUR), Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the AND Union and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

As permanent observer, Turkey has been making voluntary financial contributions regularly to the OAS since 2001 and to the ACS since 2000.

With the aim of institutionalizing Turkey-MERCOSUR relations, the “Memorandum for the Establishment of a Political Dialogue and Cooperation Mechanism between the Republic of Turkey and the MERCOSUR Member States and Associate Members” was signed at the MERCOSUR Summit on December 16, 2010.

Furthermore, the “Memorandum of Understanding for the Establishment of a Consultation and Cooperation Mechanism between the Government of the Republic of Turkey and the CARICOM” was signed in New York on September 21, 2011.