ISTANBUL: Turkey will exceed its 2012 export target and probably its 2013 target, Turkish Exporters' Assembly (TIM) Chairman Mehmet Buyukeksi told Reuters, despite regional conflicts and weak European markets.
Turkey's medium-term economic programme set export targets of $150 billion for 2012 and $158 billion for 2013. Exports were $135 billion in 2011.
Turkey has proved relatively resistant to the slowdown that has blighted much of western Europe, partly because its firms have refocused their exports on the Middle East and Africa.
Buyukeksi, speaking on Tuesday, said businesses had been looking for new markets particularly in North Africa. The exporters' group will visit 50 countries next year, with its first visit to Gabon, Niger and Senegal in January.
Turkish exporters have been diversifying away from the euro zone as the currency bloc's sovereign debt crisis has sapped European consumer and corporate demand. The share of Turkish exports sent to the European Union - still Turkey's main trade partner - fell to 38.5 percent in January-October 2012 from 47 percent a year earlier.
The share of North African and Middle Eastern countries in Turkish exports rose to 34.6 percent from 25.4 percent.
Metals, automotive products and ready-to-wear apparel were the country's main exports.
"Exports to European Union countries dropped 9 percent in the first eight months of 2012, the decline is 7 percent in the first 11 months. The drop in exports is getting smaller from month to month and this gives us hope regarding a recovery in exports to European Union," Buyukeksi told Reuters in an interview.
Turkey's flag carrier Turkish Airlines, in which Buyukeksi is a board member, will open 25 new destinations in 2013, supporting Turkish exporters' bid to diversify their markets, he said.
However, regional conflicts are hurting exports to 12 countries, including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon, Buyukeksi said, adding that Turkish exports to neighbouring Syria could revive once the conflict there ends and reconstruction begins.