The tariffs imposed by US-President Donald Trump on imports from China will not only affect Chinese exporters and the customers in his own country. Also, other suppliers to the US like Turkey will feel the aftermath. Peter Becker from Stone-Ideas.com spoke with Banu Bekisoglu, member of the Board of Aegean Minerals & Natural Stone Exporters (EIB) and CEO of SU Marble Company.
Peter Becker: Will Trump’s measures against China affect Turkish stone exports to the US?
Banu Bekisoglu: Turkey has been one of the biggest suppliers of finished products to the US mostly made of marble, travertine but also of many other stones like Onyx. With China we had had a strong price competition, so the tariffs can be seen as favorable for us.
Peter Becker: But has the Turkish stone industry sufficient capacities to increase its deliveries to the US?
Banu Bekisoglu: Of course. In recent years, Turkish companies have very much improved their business professionalism and their technical equipment as well as the creativity and know-how of their employees. At the moment, a new generation is taking over the management. Now the focus is more on production quality than only on quantity. Customer demand is the buzzword. Our employees are constantly updating their market knowledge e.g. by going to the international fairs. In one phrase: Turkish companies actually have been fighting for an increase in demand.
Peter Becker: But parallel to an increase in finished products, wouldn’t Turkish block deliveries to China go down even more?
Banu Bekisoglu: In the first four months of 2019, Turkey’s natural stone exports to China have dropped from 221 million US-dollar to 183 million in comparison to last year. Even if this reduction may still become worse, a possible increase in finished products may be more than compensation. Turkish stone companies are investing very much in design and business training so that the employees can also handle demanding high-value construction projects.
Peter Becker: Already during last year, you had started special activities in the US in order to increase the role of Turkish stone there. Could you tell us more about this?
Banu Bekisoglu: EIB has organized a delegation with 12 stone exporters meeting important architectural studios in the US. The Natural Stone Institute helped us very much to meet US importers and wholesalers. Finally, our products are not unknown in the US: stones from the Aegean Region are used in the houses of celebrities such as Sting and Jennifer Lopez, in JFK Airport, and in casinos in Las Vegas, just to mention a few. In addition, Turkish firms have supported our Nobel-prize winner Aziz Sancar by donating marble pavements and indoor materials to the Sancar Turkish Cultural & Community Center (STCCC) in NYC. The donation is expected to spread the good reputation of Turkish stone all over the US.
Ege Ihracatçi Birlikteri (EIB, Aegean Exporters’ Associations)
(27.06.2019, USA: 06.27.2019)