RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- Palestinian and Turkish business leaders met on Sunday in Ramallah in the central West Bank to discuss expanding commercial ties between Palestine and Turkey.
Osama Amr, who headed the Palestinian delegation in the meeting, told Ma’an that the meeting was the first assembly for a joint Turkish-Palestinian group, the Palestine Turkey Coordination Council.
The council, he said, has been created to strengthen commercial exchange between Turkey and Palestine in attempt “to replace Israeli products consumed in Palestine with Turkish products.” It was first assembly of Palestinian and Turkish businessmen to have been held in two decades, he asserted.
The head of the Turkish delegation said Israeli authorities had initially refused to grant the Turkish businessmen visas for the visit, which were only given after direct intervention of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the value of annual Palestinian imports from Israel amounts to some $3 billion, in addition to hundreds of millions of dollars worth of products smuggled from illegal settlements.
The Palestinian market imports $700 million worth products from Turkey while Turkey imports a value of $100 million from Palestine, according to Amr. He highlighted that Turkey is the third biggest exporting country to Palestine after Israel and China.
Amr added that the Turkish businessmen who partook in Sunday’s meeting represented all commercial sectors including food industries, apparel, agricultural products, and metal industries.
“Several Turkish economic sectors are willing to fill the needs of the Palestinian market and we hope we can have a direct commercial exchange between Palestine and Turkey without any obstacles,” Amr said.
He mentioned that according to figures from the Turkish commercial attache to Palestine, 70 percent of the current commercial exchange between Turkey and Palestine goes through Israel.
The Palestinian economy has taken a heavy blow due to restrictions imposed by the decades-long Israeli occupation.
According to a report released in April by the World Bank, the current revenue sharing arrangements as outlined by the Paris Protocol -- through which Israel collects VAT, import taxes, and other revenues on behalf of the PA -- "have not been systematically implemented."
The World Bank estimated that "tax leakages on bilateral trade with Israel and undervaluation of Palestinian imports from third countries" amounted to up to $285 million in revenues lost annually
by the PA.
In March, the Palestinian Ministry of Economy announced it was making efforts to develop and support Palestinian national products.