The article appeared in Turkish Daily News on Wednesday 4 July 2007.
Chambers are crucial to Turkish reform
By Rona Yircali
Istanbul, 4 July 2007 – As membership talks entered a new phase last week for Turkey’s entry into the European Union, the world should not forget how the EU project has spurred sweeping reforms of the economic and political systems in the country.
Popular support for EU accession has allowed Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to make major changes to the political system, which in turn has created a more open and democratic society. The reforms have also delivered a major boost to business development, the underpinning of stability and prosperity in any country.
Chambers of commerce serve an important role in this ongoing modernization effort in Turkey, furnishing counsel and key support services to companies and helping them forge links to markets and with potential business partners around the globe.
Turkey’s progress and its increasingly vibrant business community are the main reasons the World Chambers Federation accepted an invitation from the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey to hold the 5th World Chambers Congress this week in Istanbul. The title is Partnerships for Prosperity. Prime Minister Erdogan has agreed to give the opening address.
The World Chambers Federation (WCF) is a specialized division of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the world business organization, which is headquartered in Paris and has chapters in 90 countries, including Turkey.
WCF is devoted to encouraging the growth and expansion of chambers of commerce and their activities worldwide. Our biennial congress is the premier event for chambers of commerce to share real-life experiences and best practice and to expand their global network of contacts, which translates into improved services for members. The first congress was held in Marseilles in 1999, followed by Seoul, Quebec and Durban. The next congress will be held in Kuala Lumpur in 2009.
It is indisputable that WCF and this world congress have a key role to play in helping Turkey to develop its economy and industry and to accomplish further reforms.
To be sure, the congress offers no ready-made prescriptives for government debt reduction, growth in worker productivity, or decreasing disparities in regional income distribution. But the congress can – and will – point the way for successful business development and profitable business support for reform.
Issues to be addressed include: how can business respond better and faster to global risks, like natural disasters? How can chambers help their members capitalize on the opportunities and cope with the challenges brought on by globalization?
All the workshops and discussions will emphasize hands-on solutions that meet stated business objectives. One plenary session will deal with how chambers in developing countries can foster business growth, especially of small and medium-sized enterprises, which are the lifeblood of the 21st century economy. Another will explore measures needed to help secure the global supply of energy and examine how chambers can position themselves to provide effective guidance to companies and shape national and global energy policies.
The last plenary will examine the threats to the multilateral trading system, which is in real danger, and how chambers of commerce can persuade governments and public opinion of the economic benefits of rules-based, multilateral trade liberalization.
Most of the congress will be dedicated to a full programme of workshops that will allow participants to deepen their knowledge in a wide range of areas, including empowering women in business and the important role of education and youth, while showcasing the dynamism of some of the world’s leading business communities.
Istanbul is staging a global meeting that will go a long way toward buttressing and legitimizing the dynamic reform plan for the Turkish economy. It will show EU leaders attending the accession talks that the worldwide chamber of commerce movement is deeply engaged in the ongoing reform process in Turkey, and stands ready to help make these ambitious plans a reality.
Rona Yircali is chairman of the ICC World Chambers Federation. The World Chambers Congress runs from 4-6 July at the Istanbul Convention and Exhibition Centre.