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011. Regional business trip to Kocaeli 29-30 April 2014; things Embassies and Consulates do

Missions remain an essential part to expand bilateral economic relations. There are different kinds of economic delegations, from the big delegation to Turkey in the beginning of June 2014 led by Minister Ploumen (‘international trade and development cooperation’) to the dozens of smaller ones organized by banks, consultants, local authorities and branche organizations.

To all these delegations the diplomatic network in Turkey has added regional business trips, to be organized by the Embassy in Ankara and the Consulate General in Istanbul. Inspired by our Ambassador Ron Keller, who during his time as Ambassador in Moscow already organized several regional economic trips, the Dutch Consulate General in Istanbul, had its first regional trip, from Istanbul to Kocaeli, on 29 and 30 April 2014.

The province of Kocaeli is only 1,5 hours away from Istanbul. It is the 8th smallest province of Turkey, with less than 2 million inhabitants, but… contributing 13% of the industrial production, raising 13% of the taxes and having the 8th largest harbor in Europe. Per capita by far the richest province of Turkey. All in all small but (very) interesting.

The goals of this trip were simple: to offer better service and create business opportunities for Dutch companies already in Turkey, strengthen our network with local organizations, look for R&D partners and seek potential Turkish investors in the Netherlands.

Although it is difficult to measure concrete results (no multimillion dollar contracts were signed 🙂) the initial feedback of the participating companies was positive (“worked all day today to give follow-up to the leads I received during the trip to Kocaeli”). During the matchmaking program in the afternoon of 29 April about 70 appointments were arranged by the very active East Marmara ABIGEM (EU-Turkey Business Development Center for Kocaeli, Sakarya, Duzce and Yalova regions) at Kocaeli Chamber of Industry. In addition there were many other moments of direct B2B including those during the visit to the Kocaeli Chamber of Commerce. And, as always, we should never forget the intra-delegation contacts; nothing promotes business exchanges better than sharing buses, beers and meetings.

There were 26 participants, representing 12 companies, four government institutions and the Dutch Business Association Turkey (DBA Turkey) in person of chairman Eyup Karso. The participating companies were Arcadis, ASK Consultants, ATL Logistics, Eco-Care Turkey, Nicee, Philips, RoyalHaskoningDHV, Slimstock, Stertil Inter Yapi, Thermaflex, Studio Jacob de Baan and Yard 9. One other company had to cancel at the last moment.

The Government institutions were the economic team of the Consulate General Istanbul, the innovation attache of the Embassy in Ankara, the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency/NFIA Turkey and BOM (Brabant Development Agency).

Programme. Protocol visits to the Governor and the mayor of course, where the companies were also received by the mayor. In the economic field there was a meeting with the local development agency MARKA, Chamber of Commerce and Chamber of Industry meetings, a matchmaking program, a network cocktail, a seminar ‘invest in the Netherlands’ and a visit to a high tech park, including meeting a number of Turkish high tech companies.

Conclusions

There is interesting economic life outside Istanbul. At the Consulate we tend to concentrate on Istanbul, but other provinces offer very good possibilities as well. And while in Istanbul the Dutch tend to be a small fish in a very big pond, in other provinces we are a much bigger fish in still relatively big ponds.

– I noted a lot of interest for Dutch agricultural and logistic expertise.

– Turkish R&D has a way to go.

– Visa issues came up in every meeting and it is clear that this is not only a potential irritant in the bilateral relations, but that it is also costing the Netherlands business. I hope that the combination of showing respect, being client friendly and having a strongly improved Orange Carpet Facility will take away some of the concerns. For the link to the Orange Carpet facility:

http://istanbul.nlconsulate.org/news/2014/february/updated-orange-carpet-visa-facility-turkey-more-quicker-and-transparent.html

– This type of concrete missions create useful leads for the participating companies.

– In the provinces the media are generous in their attention and offer better possibilities for general Holland promotion.

We plan to organize these type of missions twice per year. As the Dutch Consulate General in Istanbul our ‘territory’ consists of the European provinces of Turkey and the five most Western provinces on the Asian side. We therefor limit our activities to these nine provinces. The Embassy in Ankara is covering regional business trips to the rest of the country.

The next trip by the Dutch Consulate is most likely to be to Edirne or Bursa, in October or November 2014. It is all part of the drive of the Dutch diplomatic network to further facilitate business, in close coordination with our economic partners in Turkey and in the Netherlands.

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