The Hungarian-Turkish Business Association (Turkcham) was established by the five founding members in 1999, on the initiation of Turkish businessman Suat Karakuş who is now the President of the association. He tells Diplomacy&Trade about how much – and in what fields – the organization has been able to contribute to enhancing relations between Turkey and Hungary.
“My goal was to create a platform where businessmen from both Hungary and Turkey can come together and help each other to develop their businesses further,” the President recalls.
The Association has accepted many other Turkish and Hungarian members over the years, has supported a lot of companies on national and international level. “During this time, we have hosted delegations, NGOs, other chambers and businessmen visiting from Turkey, organized conferences, initiated bilateral meetings, taken delegations from Hungary to Turkey. Turkcham has also pioneered in discussions about trade barriers, investment, economic and cultural relationships in both countries,” he adds.
Noting that the association recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, he highlights that “our role has been changing parallel to the challenges our business environment had faced during these years. We create an annual plan every year, in which we choose our focus areas, and they always evolve around sustainability of business and social responsibility.”
In the past few years, there have been several major Turkish investments realized in Hungary, especially on the real estate market in Budapest. Regarding Turkcham’s contribution to this development, Suat Karakuş explains that they provide tailor-made consultancy for their members investing into any sector, including construction investment. “I believe that this field is one of the most challenging and resource-intensive with the complex regulations, investment promotion options and with a very competitive market in Hungary. We pride ourselves not just in sharing our own experience within our members, but also in finding the required support through our international network, in order to accelerate the incoming and outbound investments further.”
He says it is hard to highlight just one of their many projects, but he is most proud of the Memorandum of Understanding between Turkcham, the Custom and Excise Service Providers Association of Hungary, and the Istanbul Customs Brokers Association, which they signed in October this year in Istanbul. “This ground-breaking cooperation agreement will provide the practical help to dismantle all the obstacles against the growth of bilateral trade between the two countries, for which our leaders targeted USD six billion to reach until 2023.”
Suat Karakuş, who is also Chairman of the DTİK (World Turkish Business Council) Regional Committee for Europe, stresses that he is generally very pleased that the number of international organizations Turkcham is cooperating with are continuously increasing, and not just in a bilateral context. “As an example, since 2020 we are in close partnership with the World Turkish Business Council, which expanded our network to Turkish businessmen all over the world and created the opportunity to cooperate in a more comprehensive level.”
In his presidential address to those interested in the activities of Turkcham, he describes a plan to focus on sustainable development in bilateral relations. “I believe that in order to achieve a long-term growth within the relations of Hungary and Turkey, we need to integrate as many fields as possible, within and outside of the business environment. Our social responsibility agenda is focusing on environment related projects, starting from local community level like tree planting, to more integrated level as making freight forwarding between Turkey and Hungary greener. One of our cultural programs is a poetry competition we will announce for both Hungarian and Turkish children. In education and sports, we plan to find cooperation partners in the future – as one of our new points on the agenda – to support the group of the disadvantaged children from both countries,” he explains.
Social responsibility has been a key target of Turkcham during the covid pandemic as well. To Turkcham’s initiation, the Turkish-Hungarian Business Council of DEIK, the Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey sent a sanitary aid convoy to Hungary in spring 2020, as a sign of friendship between the two countries. With the financial contribution of dominant Turkish companies, the three-truck convoy included medical equipment consisting of face shields, medical hand sanitizers and special high-alcohol scented hand sanitizers manufactured in Turkey.
The President believes that Turkcham encouraging partnership in all fields, from business to social life, from children to adults while addressing the current issues of the world, is the right way to create sustainability and long-term commitments from both sides.
One of Turkcham’s priorities is to communicate and cooperate with local chambers, associations and related institutions. Suat Karakuş points out that Turkcham has a diverse partner network in Hungary, with historical ties dating back many years. “It is mostly because our founding members, including myself, have been doing business in Hungary for more than 20 years.” In the field of export development, the Hungarian Export Promotion Agency (HEPA) has been a partner organizing conferences and B2B events together. “From customs and trade points of view our strongest ally is the Custom and Excise Service Providers Association of Hungary. Together, we organized the first Turkish-Hungarian Customs Conference in Hungary in 2019, which took place in the Hungarian Tax Authorities’ building. This conference created the groundwork of the memorandum we have just signed last month. Among many others, I would also like to highlight our close relationship with the Turkish Embassy in Budapest, the Hungarian Embassy in Ankara, the Hungarian consulate in Istanbul and its trade attachés – it is also an important forum in reaching the aforementioned USD six billion bilateral trade goal between Hungary and Turkey,” he adds.
A beam of hope
The end of 2021 is drawing near and hopefully, the end of the pandemic too. The Turkcham President is optimistic. “Recently, due to the pandemic, many of our international events have turned to online platforms. We hope that in the next year, we can return to live events, which would allow us to complete our yearly agenda and put our new objectives in practice. We would like to reach and connect with our community more with the tools of the digital era we are living in. For this reason, we redesigned our website, and made our quarterly business magazine available online as well. We are also dedicated to continue creating more platform for our members in order to cooperate at an international level and address their current trade obstacles. I hope we can organize our 20th anniversary celebration dinner, which has been long delayed at the beginning of 2022. This event would bring us back together as a beam of hope after the trying times hopefully behind us.”
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