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    Turkey: Better Training for Small Exporters


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 4/2004

    Photo: ITC ITC diagnostic tools, which analyse firms' export capacity, improve the quality of government-supported export trainers.

    Turkey's export growth in recent years is an encouraging sign of its economic potential. It is looking to small firms to sustain this growth. To meet the needs of a multitude of new, mainly small and medium-sized export firms, Turkey's Export Promotion Centre came to ITC for help in revamping its services. Together, they have developed a new approach to training trade advisers for small firms, which is now being used in other countries.

    Turkish exports hit an all-time high of US$ 46.9 billion in 2003, up 30% on the previous year. Between 2001 and 2003, the number of exporters grew from almost 29,000 to 35,000. Most are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which play an important role in the Turkish economy, constituting 99.8% of all companies and contributing 76.7% of total employment.

    In 2001, the ink on the Turkish government's eighth Five-year Development Plan (2001-05) had barely dried. It had endorsed the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Bologna Charter on SME policies only a year earlier. Finally, with European Union accession in the air and the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing coming to an end in December 2004, representatives of the Turkish Export Promotion Centre (IGEME) were concerned that the country's SMEs were not realizing their full export potential.

    Export services in higher demand

    With no increase in their 73 expert staff, IGEME saw it had to reassess its efforts to meet clients' requirements. First, it needed to be more systematic in how it delivered services to unlock SMEs' potential and fulfil recent government commitments. Second, it reappraised the ser-vices themselves. IGEME believed that managers of small firms needed simple, straightforward and affordable assistance - from people who understood local market conditions.
    IGEME was not looking for a quick export-fix but wanted to create a shift in business
    culture for firms to succeed in the changing trade environment. Companies needed to think globally from day one. International trade had to become part of their daily routine, not a preserve of the business elite.

    IGEME's Executive Director Beratiye Öncü and Director Sevim Yalçın saw the storm clouds gathering on the horizon. They came to ITC with a clear goal in mind: to identify innovative programmes and services that could improve the international competitiveness of Turkey's SMEs.
    Ms Yalçın remembers: "I was so keen to get started. We began small with the Trade Secrets project, then the International Competitiveness Gauge. As our confidence grew we became more ambitious."

    Ramamurti Badrinath, Director of ITC's Division of Trade Support Services, encouraged IGEME to take advantage of ITC tools that had already been developed. "I knew at the time that we were going to have a committed partner in IGEME," he says. "I was proven right. Within months of our first contact they had taken ITC's Trade Secrets publication and produced an adapted version in Turkish. As of today, they have invested substantial financial and human resources to put ITC tools to work."

    Trade Secrets provided a formula for IGEME to research and produce answers to the top 100 questions of new exporters in Turkey. IGEME went on to put these questions and answers online. The International Competitiveness Gauge helped introduce benchmarking techniques for the automotive components industry. With a system in place to deal with basic inquiries and experience in bringing higher value-added benchmarking and training techniques to exporters, Turkey began to work with ITC to address more complex export needs of its firms.

    Small and medium-sized firms in Turkey account for 99.8% of all enterprises and yet represent only 10%-20% of total exports. Harnessing the international trade potential of SMEs is critical to the country's trade performance. (Photo: ITC)