Interview with H.E. Ms. Ülkü Kocaefe, Ambassador of the Republic of Türkiye

This week, we spoke with H.E. Ms. Ülkü Kocaefe, the Ambassador of the Republic of Türkiye, after a successful Turkish business delegation visited Phnom Penh and held a full day of B2B meetings for the electric and electronics sector. Ms. Kocaefe and the delegation are optimistic that trade can continue to increase between the two countries as they near their 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations. 

EuroCham: Türkiye and Cambodia are enjoying a record-breaking year, reaching over $100M in bilateral trade for the first time in 2022 and set to surpass $200M in 2023. What are some factors that have led to this growth?

Ambassador Kocaefe: As you mention, Türkiye’s bilateral trade volume with Cambodia has increased a staggering 67 percent in 2022, bringing our bilateral trade volume up to 152 million US Dollars. This was the first time we passed the threshold of 100 million USD. I must admit that the most applaudable part of the job was done by the Cambodian side. While, Türkiye’s exports constituted only $26 million US Dollars of this number, Cambodia’s exports reached 126 million US Dollars. This year 2023, by the end of October, our bilateral trade volume has already surpassed last year’s trade volume number reaching 192 million US Dollars. We are expecting it to easily pass 200 million US Dollars by the end of this year. Which will be a new record. 

I believe that a couple of factors came together to create this growth. The first factor is the enhancement of relations between our countries and the mutual political will and understanding to further develop our cooperation in every field.  It was exactly 64 years ago, on November the 7th 1969, that Türkiye and Cambodia established diplomatic ties. However, it was only in November 2013, 10 years ago, that Türkiye opened its Embassy in Cambodia. The Royal Cambodian Embassy in Ankara was officially inaugurated at the beginning of last year. Finally, in April this year, Türkiye opened its first Commercial Counsellor’s Office at the Embassy in Phnom Penh. I am happy to see that we have already started to pick the grapes of this initiative. 

The second factor is that with the enhanced bilateral relations, the interest of business and investment sectors to each other’s markets have increased considerably. The still high economic growth rate both in Türkiye and Cambodia triggered this factor. Both countries want to expand their trade on a global scale and are looking for new markets and partners. The comparative advantages of Turkish and Cambodian economies are also a factor that contribute to this picture. And thirdly, lessons learned from the Covid crisis, increased connectivity as well as regional and global economic integration provided us with a more fertile environment than before. 

EuroCham: The goal is much larger, to reach $1 billion. How will you help reach this number?

Ambassador Kocaefe: By working harder, I guess… Both countries leaders believe that setting ambitious targets is key to success.  So, this 1 billion bilateral trade volume target was set back in 2019, by Türkiye’s President H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Cambodia’s former Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen. Prime Minister Hun Manet also strongly expressed his wish to see this target being realized during a recent meeting.  It’s ambitious but its also possible. Türkiye has done remarkable jumps in its bilateral trade with other partners in the past. We have already achieved a good momentum, we have the will and the potential. Business Forums, B2B meetings, trade delegations will be our priority in the coming periods.

On my part, I would also like to see that the increase in trade presents a more balanced picture. In other words, I will encourage Cambodian business people to not view Türkiye as just an exports market but also as a source for their imports, most importantly for products such as machinery, pharmaceuticals and medical devices, plastics and plastics products as well as processed food products. Turkish products are globally well-known for their high standarts and quality as well as more affordable prices.

Türkiye is an emerging country with a large population and a high potential for investment. Cambodia on the other hand is a fast-growing economy with a lot of potential and a promising new investment law. Though investment between Cambodia and Turkey has historically been relatively small, I would also like to encourage business of both countries to seek investment opportunities as a means to increasing trade flows.

From Türkiye’s point of view, Cambodia may seem to be a small market of 17 million people. My advice to Turkish business people is to always focus on the bigger picture. The economic and trade zone of ASEAN, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership RCEP and the web of Free Trade Agreements of Cambodia can open one of the greatest markets of the world for your investments and products.

So, I would like to invite both Turkish and Cambodian companies to look into each other’s markets through new lenses and new perspectives.

EuroCham: Türkiye and Cambodia have enjoyed a long diplomatic partnership, 64 years this November. It opened its Embassy in November 2013 and a Commercial Counsellor’s Office in April this year. Why is now a good time to push for increased Turkish and Cambodian economic ties?

Ambassador Kocaefe: As the western-most country of Asia, and the eastern-most country of Europe, Türkiye’s relations with Asia has always been a key component of her multidimensional foreign policy. Based on her unique geographical position and deep-rooted historical and cultural ties with Asia, Türkiye announced the “Asia Anew Initiative” in August 2019, to introduce a new vision into her policies towards the continent from a comprehensive and holistic perspective.

Türkiye’s relations with Asian countries have seen a rising trend over the past decade. Having the 5th largest diplomatic network globally, Türkiye is represented by 54 diplomatic and consular missions in countries under “Asia Anew Initiative”, including all 10 ASEAN countries.

The “Asia Anew Initiative” aims at capitalizing on potential opportunities of cooperation with Asian countries, commensurate with evolving circumstances and needs. The initiative focuses on further improving Türkiye’s relations with these countries through regional, sub-regional and country-specific approaches, based on common interests and objectives.

The “Asia Anew Initiative” prioritizes economic and trade cooperation with Asian partners. Connectivity, logistics and transport along with defence industry, construction, logistics, green energy, digital technologies, finance, cultural exchanges are main areas where mutually beneficial partnerships can be developed as part of Türkiye’s new Asia outreach.

Cambodia has been an important element of Türkiye’s Asia Anew Initiative as well as our efforts to further enhance our relations with ASEAN.

On the bilateral front, after opening our respective Embassies and Trade Offices, reaching a strong common understanding to develop our relations in every possible field and completing our legal framework with agreements such as Avoidance of Double Taxation and Promotion and Protection of Investment, I believe it is the best time to push for increased economic ties. 

EuroCham: We were so pleased to host the Turkish Electrical and Electronics Exporters’ Association (TET) Trade Delegation to Cambodia this week. Could you tell us why it was important to set up this day of meetings and why the electronics and electrical sector has a lot of potential to succeed in Cambodia?

Ambassador Kocaefe: On the 7th of November the Turkish Electrical and Electronics Exporters’ Association (TET) held a Business Forum with the assistance of EUROCHAM in Phnom Penh.  This forum provided the perfect opportunity for Cambodian and Turkish businesses to exchange information about their country’s market, explore new business partnerships and opportunities as well as find ways to collaborate together. It has so far been one of the largest gathering of Turkish and Cambodian business people. I hope this event was the first of many similar events that I receive the chance to support. 

The global electronics and electrical industry have shown rapid growth over the last few decades with technological advancements and innovations in information technologies. The sector in itself is important but its growth and development is also essential for the growth and development of other sectors such as information technologies, education, health care and finance, due to its vital supporting role. 

As Cambodia has been presenting a rapid economic growth rate and as the percentage of the population who have reached middle class in Cambodia has expanded, it is only natural to observe that the demand for electronics and electrical products in Cambodia has also grown and will continue to grow.

The increase in energy generation and consumption as well as the increase in the efficiency of the electricity grids in providing a stable and dependable electricity supply are also other factors that assist in the growth of the demand for electronics and electrical products.

Just to provide some numbers regarding the increase in demand, according to the latest statics we could gather, Cambodia imported close to one and a half billion US Dollars’ worth of electrics and electronics equipment in 2022. This is a 25 percent increase compared to its imports of 1.2 billion US Dollars in 2021.

Türkiye, has a very developed and diverse electronics and electrical industry that is able to cater to the needs of a diverse number of industries and economies. As support of this affirmation, I would like to share that the electronics and electrical industry in Türkiye has exported over 12.1 billion US Dollars worth of goods to countries all over the world, within the first nine months of 2023 alone.

EuroCham: It’s very important to tell stories about products and it’s possible not many people know much about Turkey or its products. Could you tell us why Turkish products deserve the attention of Cambodian businesses?

Ambassador Kocaefe: The Turkish industry ranks among the top countries worldwide, with the demand for Turkish products increasing, thanks to their reasonable prices, unique designs and quality. Türkiye's exports last year totaled to 254 billion US Dollars.

To further elaborate, Türkiye is a country rich in culture, history and tradition. It is located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia and its strategic location has made it a center for trade and commerce providing it with a unique opportunity to blend the best of both worlds and reflect it in its designs and products.

Over the years, Türkiye has developed a reputation for producing high quality products that are exported to countries all over the world. When we talk about the quality of a product, the concept could seem subjective, however, there are certain standards and technical regulations that provide objective criteria to the determination of quality. As Türkiye has a Customs Union with the EU and thus has to comply with the technical rules and regulations of the Union, it is safe to say that Turkish products conform to all safety and high technology standards of our day. The products manufactured in Türkiye show a high level of performance, are reliable and durable and come with excellent after-sale services.

Another advantage of importing from Türkiye is that the pricing of the products is usually more affordable compared to other exporting countries due to the fact that the cost of labor is still relatively low.

You might ask what Türkiye’s major export products are. Well, I have to humbly convey that Türkiye is successful in a wide variety of sector. However, the most prominent sectors right now are automobiles and automobile spare parts, textiles and apparel, machinery, chemicals and food products. In the near future, I also expect the defense industry and the emerging health tourism sector to have a significant share in our exports.





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