The launch of direct flights between Taiwan and Turkey at the end of this month will greatly boost bilateral tourism and trade, which are still far from reaching their full potential, Turkish Office representative Ismet Erikan said.
“I believe this is a new window, a new door-opening for the people of Taiwan, for the business circles of Taiwan, and definitely it will increase trade, it will increase tourism, it will increase academic cooperation in every field,” Erikan said in an interview on Thursday. “Last year, we had approximately 40,000 tourists going from Taiwan to Turkey, and by starting daily flights [between] Taipei and Istanbul, we are hoping that this number will increase to 100,000 or more yearly.”
Beginning March 31, Turkish Airlines — Turkey’s national flag carrier — is set to offer daily flights from Taipei to Istanbul and four flights per week from Istanbul to Taipei. Daily flights are to become available from Istanbul to Taipei early next month.
It now takes 14-to-16 hours to fly between the two cities. The direct flights would shorten the flight time by about four hours.
“Turkey offers the full package,” Erikan said. “From Istanbul, in four hours flight time, you can reach 50 different countries. This is a quarter of the world’s population and one-fourth of the world’s GDP.”
Since 2013 Turkey has included Taiwan in its e-visa program, which makes it cheaper and faster for Taiwanese passport holders to apply for visas, Erikan said.
Erikan said he is uninspired by the low bilateral trade volume over the past 10 years. Trade between Taiwan and Turkey reached US$1.87 billion last year, an increase from US$1.19 billion recorded in 2004.
According to Ministry of Finance statistics, the nation’s exports to Turkey, which consist primarily of machinery, electronics and electrical equipment, appliances, textiles, base metals, plastics and rubber, totaled US$1.7 billion last year.
Imports from Turkey, meanwhile, totaled only US$173 million last year, composed mostly of mineral products, textiles, machinery and chemicals.
“This should not be the trade volume between two large economies. So is there room to grow? Yes. How much room? Maybe 10 times more,” he said, urging Taiwanese businesses to invest more in Turkey. “By doing so, they can expand their businesses to Central Asia, to the Middle East, to Africa.”
When asked what it will take for Turkey and Taiwan to start negotiations on an economic cooperation agreement (ECA), Erikan said no talks about an ECA are currently underway.
“We are not there yet, but there are some other agreements or protocols or MOUs [memorandums of understanding] for cooperation in the pipeline,” he said. “We are working on them, and we are about to finalize the texts, which will help business circles a lot, I believe.”
He said one such agreement is related to investment promotion and protection, but declined to divulge details.
A Taiwanese association and a Turkish group signed an MOU on machine tool cooperation on Thursday and Erikan said he is optimistic that the soon-to-be-launched direct flights are set to further increase business collaboration.
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