Turkey is unlikely to meet the economic and export targets set by its government in 2009, according to speakers at GTR‘s Turkey Trade & Export Finance Conference in Istanbul.

Meeting the ‘Exports Strategy for 2023’ would see the country grow its exports volume to US$500bn a year, while becoming one of the world’s top 10 economies. It would also see the country’s historically high trade deficit reversed, returning an export to import ratio of 80 to 20.

However, while exports have been growing annually, the rate is too slow. Between 2002 and 2012, exports grew at an average rate of 6% a year, but need to be growing at 11% to hit the target. Turkey currently exports US$163bn worth of goods and services – 28th in the world.

Serdar Sayan, professor of economics at Istanbul’s TUBB University of Economics and Technology, told the audience that the targets were highly unlikely but that this is mostly to do with the performance of other countries, rather than Turkey alone.

With regard the exports target, Turkey’s traditional export markets have been growing and consuming sluggishly. The eurozone crisis, in particular, has had a huge drag on Turkey’s growth. However, it was noted that a positive impact of the crisis was the establishment of a requirement for Turkish companies to source new geographies to export to.

For the economic target, the countries already occupying positions ahead are growing too quickly for Turkey to overtake them, said Sayan. Turkey is currently the world’s 17th largest economy.

Mehmet Habbib, chairman of the Turkish Lebanese Business Council and a board member of Turkey’s Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEIK) agreed with Sayan, saying that while it is positive to work towards the targets, they may prove “difficult” to achieve.

He noted that Turkey’s exports had failed to grow in 2013 and attributed this in part to the weak demand elsewhere, but also said the political turmoil in the country should shoulder a portion of blame.

The country’s prime minister Recep Tayyup Erdogan is embroiled in a corruption scandal and in banning the social network Twitter, has gone to extreme lengths to silence critics. In the face of consistently large protests in opposition to his reign, a huge rally – with crowd estimations ranging from 220,000 to 2.5 million – took place last weekend (March 23) in Istanbul in support of Erdogan.

The country is divided in its political views which, said Habbib, is contributing to the exchange rate fluctuations which are hitting exports.