The Anatolian Heritage Federation (AHF) proudly announces its first Annual Turkic Canadian Convention a large annual gathering intended to bring together a wide range of stakeholders including Canadian parliamentary members, Senators, executive staff, governmental and parliamentary delegations from Turkic countries, representatives of the Turkic diaspora in Canada, business people from Turkic countries, academics, experts and many others. The aim of the convention is to contribute to the strengthening of the political, social and economic ties between Turkic countries and Canada. The convention will feature keynote addresses by top officials, interactive panel talks by national and international experts in their respective fields followed by a gala reception, providing networking opportunities with high-profile guests.

The convention was organized by the Anatolian Heritage Federation (AHF), the largest national Turkic organization in Canada representing over 24 community associations, cultural centres, business associations and educational institutions from coast to coast. AHF has been a powerful advocate for dialogue not only between the Turkic community of Canada and broader Canadian society, but also between Turkic countries and Canada. AHF strongly believes that this convention will be an important avenue to explore potential partnership opportunities and increase current political/economic cooperation amongst countries and societies.

Turkish deputies and other officials met with their counterparts at the Convention in the expectation that the launch of formal negotiation talks for a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) between Canada and Turkey will take place in the spring of 2014.

 

“In the spring of next year, we expect the Canadian cabinet to pass the mandate that will allow the Canadian government to finally begin the official negotiation rounds for a comprehensive free trade agreement,” said Deputy Director General for European Union Affairs of the Ministry of Economy Veysel Parlak, when speaking to Today’s Zaman at the first Turkic Canadian Convention in Ottawa. Parlak’s directorate is responsible for the Turkey-EU customs union and Turkey’s FTA relationships.

According to Canadian law, the Canadian cabinet must issue a mandate in order for the Canadian International Trade Ministry to inaugurate formal trade negotiations with another country.

“After we manage to start the official negotiations, I don’t think it is going take more than two years to sign a comprehensive FTA with Canada, Parlak continued. He also touched upon the much-debated customs union agreement Turkey has with the EU, which has left Turkey in a disadvantageous position when it comes to international trade for the last several years.

Turkey became party to an exceptional customs union with the EU in 1996 for the free movement of goods. It is exceptional in that it exists between the EU and a non-member country. In situations where there is an FTA between the EU and a third country, the third country gains access to Turkish markets through the customs union, but Turkey cannot enjoy the same benefit of access to the market of the third country. Therefore, Turkey has been seeking separate FTAs with those countries that have already signed similar agreements with the EU.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso announced the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) in October. Because of the disadvantages that CETA will cause, Turkey is trying to arrange for a separate FTA with Canada.

Parlak also mentioned that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Economy Minister Zafer Cağlayan have been deeply concerned about the issues that the problematic EU customs union brings and they very much want to see a better, more fair agreement made between Turkey and the EU in the near future. “Since 1996, countries’ economic, political, and social structures have experienced great change. Today, not only Turkey, but the EU also feels the need to make revisions to the customs union agreement. Both parties, however, are waiting for the World Bank’s [WB] assessment review on the implementation, effectiveness and problems of the agreement that is to be released in January,” Parlak said.

Turkish Ambassador to Canada H.E Tuncay Babalı, one of the panelists at the Turkic-Canadian Convention, emphasized the large projects that the Turkish government has initiated in the last decade such as the Marmaray underwater rail line, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway and Istanbul’s third airport, which will be the world’s biggest when it is completed by 2017, in his speech. “We expect formal FTA negotiations to be launched in the first half of 2014,” he also stated.

A high-ranking official from the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development who would like to remain anonymous said that the Canadian government’s stance is and has always been always positive when it comes to an FTA with Turkey. He told Today’s Zaman that Canada and Turkey will sign this deal sooner or later, but he really cannot provide the exact timing of when the Canadian cabinet will take up the issue.”

However, Dave Van Kesteren, deputy and chair of the Canadian-Turkish Friendship Group of the Canadian Parliament, put more emphasis on social cooperation rather than business. He said that Canada and Turkey could demonstrate a very good example of Muslim-Christian cooperation working toward global peace and stability.

Sadık Badak, Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputy for Antalya and member of the Turkish-Canadian Friendship Committee of the Turkish Parliament; Kadir Gökmen Öğüt, Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy for İstanbul; and Oktay Öztürk, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy for Erzurum were also among the distinguished guests at the conference.

The Turkic Canadian Convention was a one-day event that included two panel discussions: “Turkey, the Region and Beyond,” and “Advancing the Cooperation Between Canada and Turkey.” Among the special panelists in addition to Ambassador Babalı were Special Advisor for Southeast Europe in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs at the US Department of State James Howard Holmes; Joost Lagendijk, Today’s Zaman columnist; Patrick Martin, Middle East Bureau Chief of The Globe and Mail. Andrew Scheer, speaker of the Canadian House of Commons, was also present to deliver a speech at the convention’s closing reception.

When: Monday, December 2, 2013

Where: Victoria Room, Ottawa Marriott Hotel,

100 Kent St, Ottawa, ON K1P 5R7

Website: convention.anatolianheritage.ca

Please kindly RSVP by November 29, 2013 at rsvp@anatolianheritage.ca or convention.anatolianheritage.ca. AHF would be delighted by your presence and looks forward to seeing you and your company.

Should you have any questions about the convention program please don’t hesitate to contact us at:

Ottawa Office: Kerim Khan, kerim@anatolianheritage.ca, (613) 413-0874