Asia, the cradle of some of the oldest civilizations, has again been gaining a pivotal role on the world scene. As it is home to the youngest populations and the most dynamic economies in the world, the center of gravity of the global economy has shifted toward Asia. We have a long history of relations and deep-rooted ties with Asian countries. We are proud of our Asian roots and our role as a gateway to two major continents, Asia and Europe.
Today, we aim to reenergize our cooperation with Asia through our Asia Anew Initiative, launched in 2019. ASEAN has a central place in our foreign policy toward Asia. We established a sectoral dialogue partnership with ASEAN in 2017. This helps us to further our cooperation on a wide range of issues from tourism to trade. The third Turkey-ASEAN Trilateral Meeting today will be a major opportunity to take up our concrete ideas and proposals with respect to all these areas of cooperation. As the fifth largest economy in the world, ASEAN has an impact beyond Asia. Together with China and India, ASEAN contributes significantly not only to Asia’s growth but also to the growth of the global economy.
Turkey is also a center of attraction in its region and beyond. Even though the pandemic poses a huge challenge to us, like the rest of the world, we managed to achieve economic growth in 2020, a clear indication of the resilience and dynamism of the Turkish economy.
Like many ASEAN countries, private sector and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are engines of our growth. A young and educated population, too, is a major asset for us to achieve sustainable growth. Turkey not only connects East and West, but also connects north and south. İstanbul is a regional headquarters for multinational companies from 25 countries across the world. With a four hour flight from Turkey, you can reach 1.5 billion people and US$24 trillion of gross domestic product (GDP). This makes Turkey an economic powerhouse with a fast-growing market, a business friendly environment and a dynamic private sector.
Likewise, with the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, ASEAN has also consolidated its position as a gateway to a market of over two billion people. There is huge untapped potential to significantly improve our economic cooperation. We are taking concrete steps to tap into this potential: Turkey has opened embassies in all 10 ASEAN member states. We are also glad to host eight out of 10 ASEAN countries’ embassies in Ankara. We have established strategic partnerships with Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Free trade agreements (FTAs) are in force with Malaysia and Singapore. Negotiations on similar agreements with Thailand and Indonesia are in progress. Expanding the FTA with Malaysia to include services, e-commerce and investments is on track. In recent years, Turkish Airlines has diversified its destinations to six ASEAN countries and increased flight frequencies to facilitate tourism and business contacts.
We witness the concrete results of these steps in the growing interest of the Turkish business community and investors in ASEAN. We are also happy to host more and more business delegations from ASEAN countries in Turkey.
Trade and investment are the main drivers of our bilateral ties. But our vision is not limited to this. We also aim to build stronger ties in security, political dialogue, sustainable development, capacity-building, environmental cooperation, science and technology, culture and education. ASEAN is the result of the wisdom and vision of its member nations. Turkey appreciates the balanced, rational and principled stance of ASEAN toward regional issues. We share similar values, such as inclusiveness, shared prosperity for all and emphasis on cooperation and not rivalry. These values are important to achieve a better future for all.