Weekly actual topics in Azerbaijan (Nov.26-30)

WTO membership to change Azerbaijan's economy

Having great economic potential, Azerbaijan is considered to be the most developed country in the South Caucasus. However, in contrast to its neighbors, the country is still not a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which is explained by a thorough preparation of the country to the process. Protection and promotion of national interests in the international trading system is more valuable for Azerbaijan than only the prestige of membership in this organization.

The regular, X round of multilateral talks on Azerbaijan's membership in the WTO will be held on December 7, the Chief Negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmud Mammadguliyev told Trend on Thursday. To date, Canada, the U.S., the EU and Norway have expressed willingness to engage in bilateral talks with Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan's responsible approach to these talks is due to the country's aspiration to defend its position in the negotiations with the WTO member states and the organization itself. It is particularly important for the country to join the WTO as a developing country in order to receive ten percent benefits for agricultural subsidies. The WTO members want to make clear the level of liberalism and transparency in Azerbaijan's pricing policy, the tax system, the mechanism of agricultural subsidies and to clarify licensing issues. And, most importantly, they are interested in the changes that Azerbaijani government will introduce to the legislation on foreign trade, including the timing of their introduction.

Accession to the WTO has set the task for Azerbaijani economic legislation to meet WTO system rules to avoid any future problems. Currently, given that the oil and gas trade is not regulated by the WTO, and most of Azerbaijan's exports (91 percent) account for oil, gas and petroleum products, any difficulties with exports are not expected. As for imports, the removal of trade barriers will lead to an influx of not the best quality, but low cost imported goods into the country, which will hit the domestic non-oil production. Therefore, Azerbaijan will need an adaptation period to introduce protective mechanisms.

During this period, it will be possible to carry out measures to stimulate local entrepreneurship, improve product quality, and offer balanced concessions to trading partners in access to foreign goods, services and investments in the Azerbaijani market. For Azerbaijan, the WTO membership is dictated by the intention to reverse the current situation in the domestic economy, attract investments and enter the world market with non-primary production.

Turkish banking system can be exemplary for many countries

The Azerbaijani banking sector is expected to have great changes in 2013. These will be the processes of banks' consolidation, small players' withdrawal from the market, the possible beginning of the International Bank of Azerbaijan's privatization process, foreign brand-name banks' appearance.

The new requirements of the Azerbaijani Central Bank (CBA) toward the capital of banks operating in Azerbaijan will be the impetus for this transformation. According to CBA Board decision as of July 25, the requirement to the minimum total capital of existing banks and the capital of newly established banks increased from current 10 million manat ($12.7 million) to 50 million manat ($63.7 million). The new regulation for the minimum total capital of existing banks will take effect on January 1, 2014.

History shows that many developed countries, such as Turkey, which could achieve something it has today as a result of long-term banking reforms, experienced these changes once in the banking sector.

Turkey is currently experiencing another wave of privatization of the banking sector. This process has actively involved foreign investors whose interest in the Turkish banks increased after the global financial crisis.

When the largest players in the U.S and European financial markets were forced to refinance the banking sector, the Turkish banks have not only confirmed their strength and stability, but also continued supporting the real sector of economy. In the midst of the crisis, the assets of the Turkish banking sector increased by 13 percent and profit - by 50 percent, and return on equity was 18 percent in 2009.

Turkish banking sector shows positive results up to now. According to the Turkish Central Bank, profits of the banking sector in the country increased by 46 percent in the third quarter of 2012 compared to the same period in 2011.

This trend, as well as the measures, taken by the Turkish government within the economic stimulation programs, play an important role in foreign investors' decision-making on entering the Turkish banking market. This interest is evident not only through participation in the privatization of state-owned banks, but also in the desire to open the affiliates or subsidiaries by foreign banks in the country.

Such some big players in global financial markets with assets exceeding $ 100 billion, as the Dutch Rabobank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the Japanese Mitsubishi Bank, Italian Intesa Bank and the British Standard Chartered Türkiye were among the banks that applied to the Turkish Central Bank for licenses.

The process of consolidation and privatization of state-owned banks started in Turkey in 2001 as part of fulfilling the commitments to the IMF for getting loans. The process of attracting foreign capital in the Turkish banking system started from this period. In 1990 the share of foreign banks in assets of the banking system amounted to three percent, in 1995 - four per cent, in 2000 - five per cent, while in 2007 it rose to 16 per cent. At present, the share of foreign participation in the total capital of the Turkish banking sector is 16.7 per cent.

The government and the Central Bank do not worry about increasing number of foreign banks in the Turkish market. The government and the Central Bank believe that the process does not pose any risk to the Turkish banking system. Moreover, despite the increased foreign capital, Turkish banks still hold a dominant position in the market of banking services.

A distinctive feature of the Turkish banking system is the prevalence of universal banks that offer the full range of credit and financial services. As the result of active privatization and consolidation processes, private commercial banks hold the leading positions on number and volume of their assets in Turkey. According to the state agency for regulation of the banking sector in Turkey, the assets of the banking sector in August 2012 increased by seven percent, the volume of given loans - by ten percent, revenues - by 19.4 percent compared to August 2011. At present, around 45 banks operate in Turkey.

The specific character of the privatization processes in Turkey stipulates that the condition of privatization is the desire to maintain state control of a controlling stake, as it is observed in the privatization of Halkbank. It is expected that the privatization of the bank will begin within six months. After its denationalization, the process will begin toward Vakıfbank, and then Ziraat Bankasi, which is 100 percent state owned bank. Previously, Deniz Bank was privatized. It was purchased by Russian "Savings Bank" for 6.47 billion Turkish liras.

An interesting fact is that the number of banking markets is being reduced in the world financial system today. The number of banks is expected to be increased to 60 in Turkey for the nearest years. The Turkish banking sector is quite young compared to developed countries, but the level of development in this country suggests that others can learn a lot from this country.

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