Turkey’s President Erdoğan has led another successful political and trade delegation abroad, this time to Kazakhstan. On Saturday, Turkish and Kazakh companies signed new agreements encompassing a broad range of sectors including construction, machine production, energy, and chemical manufacturing, collectively worth $590 million.
Details of the new deal were announced in a statement issued by Kazakhstan’s Prime Ministry, and confirmed by the countries’ two presidents following their meeting in the capital Astana. The city was playing host to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Science and Technology Summit, also attended by leaders of Islamic states.
In 2009, Turkey’s relationship with Kazakhstan was given strategic importance, supported by the creation of a High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council in 2012 – a government level organisation to facilitate investment and commercial collaboration between the two countries. As a result, trade volume increased to $2 billion a year. However, last week President Erdoğan described this as “inadequate.”
After meeting with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in Astana at the weekend, the Turkish leader said: “Our goal is to increase this figure to $5 billion, because both Turkey and Kazakhstan have this potential.”
The new agreements signed last week pave the way for 26 new projects. Çalık Holding, Yıldırım Holding, Yıldızlar SSS Holding and the Agrobest Group are among the Turkish conglomerates set to benefit and expand their business operations in the Central Asian state as a result.
President Nazarbayev said, “We have agreed to benefit from Turkey’s knowledge and experience in the sectors of textiles, food, mining, industry, construction, electronics, agriculture, and tourism.”
A keen driver of foreign trade opportunities, President Erdoğan led a major delegation to Kazakhstan back in 2015. President Nazarbayev will reciprocate when he visits Turkey in 2018 to continue to deepen economic and political co-operation between the two states.
Turkey is one of the leading investors in Kazakhstan. Information from the Kazakh Prime Ministry shows that Turkish investment in the first half of 2017 totalled $925 mn. In 2015, some 600 Turkish companies were involved in business worth over $2 bn. Today, Turkish entrepreneurs employ over 15,000 Kazakhs in industries such as food, pharmaceutical, construction, manufacturing, and hotel management.
Historically, Turks have enjoyed strong relations with the energy-rich former Soviet state that is strategically located between Russia and China. Turkey was the first country to formally recognise the independence of Kazakhstan in December 1991 and also backed their successful candidacy to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2017-2018. In 2014, President Nazarbayev extended an invitation to Turkey to join the Eurasian Economic Union, a small bloc of Central Asian states.
Both countries are home to multi-ethnic groups and through their Turkic populations, share a similar culture and heritage. Both follow the Hanafi tradition of Islam, although President Nazarbayev, a senior remnant of the Soviet Communist era, is fiercely secular. Both countries’ presidents exert strong control over their respective governments, with both receiving bad international press for their human rights records.