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Turkish Visa-Free with Syria Deal Opens South to New Trade Expansion

Posted on 22 May 2010

I just read a great article in the Financial Times, highlighting the massive amount of Syrians that are shopping in the Sanko Park shopping mall in Gaziantep, the first stop for high end shopping that they come to after crossing into Turkey through its southern border.

According to the article, Syrians from Asteppo now account for 1 in 20 (5%) of the mall’s 85,000 monthly customers. They come to buy electronic goods and shop in quality stores like Marks and Spencers.

"Syria is Turkey 20 years ago," says Emin Berk, co-ordinator of a new office to encourage small business dealings between Gaziantep and Aleppo. "Gaziantep is the first stop out of Syria: it’s more developed and it has better shopping."

The cross-border shopping sprees have been made possible by the two countries allowing mutual visa-free travel for their inhabitants. I was quick to speak of the potential tourism growth to arise from the deal, which was in fact the intended benefit, but I didn’t see the potential for growth in other areas, which I now do.

According to those quoted in the FT article this opening up of the border will be massively beneficial for the economy in Turkey’s south and south east. Apparently cement can be sold for $140 in Syria, whereas in Turkey its price is $50. It is thought that the business expansion this will bring to the region will bring the creation of hundreds of jobs, and yet more economic growth potential for the whole of Turkey.

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