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Turkey’s Economic Minister Nihat Zeybekci asked the Ethiopian government to ease the process of visas and customs and to allow Turkish Airways to use large aircraft when transporting passengers via Addis Ababa to Istanbul. He also asked for both countries to ease trade restrictions so that import and export can be conducted freely. He hopes that the current USD 400 million Etho-Turkish trade volume to USD one billion by the end of GTPII. Nihat Zeybekci  came out strongly in favor of free trade during the Turkish-Ethiopia Business Forum held from Dec 26-29 saying that this is the best way to enhance trade volume.

“We are happy about the trade interaction with Ethiopia but we strongly believe we can get a better result if both of us are allowed to interchange our products without limitation and quantity restrictions. We have a free trade agreement with Egypt, Djibouti and many other countries, allowing us to mutually increase trade and we believe the same thing can happen in Ethiopia,” he said.

The number of Turkish firms in Ethiopia reached 150 in 2015, creating 30,000 jobs the Turkish minister said adding that many other Turkish firms plan to invest in Ethiopia.

According to Zeybekci, Turkish investments are around USD 2.5 billion in Ethiopia and employ the highest number of private sector workers in the country.

Ahmed Abtew, Minister of Industry says Ethiopia needs more time to assess Turkey’s request.

“We know that free trade is a very important idea but Turkey and Ethiopia are not at the same level, Mr. Zeybekci, as you know, we get a lot of revenue from import tax so it doesn’t benefit us to directly switch to free trade but we have a plan to generate more revenue and profit with value addition tax, which will ultimately allow us to relax our free trade policy,” he said.

Ahmed asked Turkey to grant Ethiopia preferred trade status for exports.

“We are not asking you to take all of our imports but to give us the opportunity to export more of our products to Turkey. We also hope Turkey will purchase investor’s products based in Ethiopia,” he said.

He added that his government is welcome to accept Turkish investors who want to invest in the railway projects that the country plans throughout Ethiopia.

In related news, Ethiopia and Turkey signed five cooperation agreements. This includes a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to enhance cooperation in mining, industry and electricity. They also agreed to cooperate to promote small and medium manufacturing as well as installing electricity. Turkey also made an agreement with the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation and the Ethiopian Standards Agency to share experiences.

Diplomatic relations between Ethiopia and Turkey goes back to 1896. They jump- started with a historic meeting to exchange experiences among delegates during the reign of Sultan Abdülhamid II and Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia. Following the discussion the first Ottoman-Turkish Consulate General was opened in Harar in 1912.