Trading with Turkey: the mission to sell Ireland in a new land of opportunity

The booming Turkish economy, now the sixth largest in Europe, remains a complex market but offers potential for expansion

Turkey’s economy, despite the wider European economic crisis, is booming and is expected to grow by approximately 7 per cent per year over the medium term.

With €6 billion to €7 billion available in pre-accession EU funding, and enormous infrastructural, environmental and energy demands being made by the rapid economic transformation under way, the appetite for investment and trade deals is huge.

On a trade mission this week, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore was left in no doubt about the rapidly growing economic importance of Turkey, both in Europe and the Middle East.

For his part, he was equally clear in putting across the message that the Irish economy is getting back on its feet, that it has a host of large and small businesses that can provide the expertise and products needed by Turkey, and that it has a wealth of expertise in how to deal with the EU and how to access the funding that can come from there.


According to Mark Tracey of Ace Express Freight, Turkey is taking the place of China in terms of supplying manufactured goods to Europe. Ace Express is the exclusive Irish agent for Hellmann Worldwide Logistics, which makes the Dublin firm part of a global freight network.

Freight services
For a variety of reasons, he says, the shift away from China to Turkey is happening and driving an associated surge in demand for freight services.

According to Tim Hickey of Project Management Group, whose Ankara office was officially opened by Mr Gilmore during the mission, Turkey is now the foreign direct investment story of Europe.

The Irish engineering and consultancy group has been building high-specification industrial buildings for blue-chip clients for years now, and an aspect of its international development has been its shift eastwards in advance of the expansion of the EU itself. The decision to move into Turkey three years ago is the latest expression of this.

Private sector clients with which PM has worked before in areas such as food and pharma are now engaging it to construct facilities in what is now the sixth-largest economy in Europe and one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

That projected growth is producing a huge associated need for extra power generation, something that prompted ESB International to select Turkey, along with Singapore and South Africa, as a key element of its plan to double the State-owned company's foreign business income over the coming few years.

The announcement of its first major Turkish deal this week is a major breakthrough in that regard. The joint venture, which will supply up to 3 per cent of Turkey’s current needs, is viewed by head of innovation John McSweeney as a platform from which the Irish utility can cultivate its Turkish ambitions.

The country’s energy demands are expected to grow by 6 per cent per annum over the coming period, a massive rate of development.

Among others who used the trade mission to pursue or announce deals were: Kerry-based mobile technologies company Altobridge; Offaly-based flood and personnel barrier manufacturer Bridgeway Engineering: Dublin-based biometric identity firm Daon: steel equipment manufacturer Kells Stainless, based in Meath; Kilkenny-based horse feed producer Connolly's Red Mills; and Monaghan-based specialist forklift producer Combilift.

The traffic jams in Istanbul and the ubiquitous cranes in Ankara are among the physical manifestations of the changes that are under way in the gateway country. Improvements in relations with the Kurdish population and other indicators of political stability are key elements of that boom.

EU accession still seems a long way off, despite the re-opening of the negotiations under the Irish EU presidency after a two and a half year hiatus.

Delicate obstacles
The European side is nervous generally and, for the Turks, Cyprus remains a bone of contention. There is a range of complicated and delicate obstacles that need to be crossed yet.

Turkey’s strategic location for those doing business in the region was a key message during the week, with the Turks anxious to find Irish partners with whom they could join to do business in third countries.

Turkish Airlines does run a direct service from Dublin but Irish business figures caution that it remains a complex market.

Their advice to anyone looking to do business was: contact Enterprise Ireland before getting on the aircraft.