Erdogan hails ‘new section’ in Turkey-UK ties with commerce settlement

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Dec 28, 2020

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Turkey and the United Kingdom will signal a free commerce settlement on Dec. 29, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed Monday.

The Turkish chief mentioned the settlement between the 2 NATO allies would be the most important deal since Turkey signed a customs union commerce accord with the European Union in 1996. “God willing, we are entering a new phase in which both Turkey and the UK will benefit,” Erdogan mentioned following a cupboard assembly in Ankara. 

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The United Kingdom is Turkey’s second largest export market and the highest marketplace for Turkish white items reminiscent of fridges and washing machines. Bilateral commerce between the 2 nations stood at $16.three billion final yr, and was tipped overwhelmingly in Turkey’s favor. The Turkey-UK Business Council says it hoped to extend the quantity of commerce to $20 billion by 2023. 

The settlement replicates an current one that enables for tariff-free commerce on all non-agricultural merchandise. British Trade Minister Liz Truss, nonetheless, mentioned she hoped a fair higher deal could be struck quickly. “The deal we expect to sign this week locks in tariff-free trading arrangements and will help support our trading relationship. We now look forward to working with Turkey toward an ambitious tailor-made UK-Turkey trade agreement in the near future,” Truss asserted.

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Erdogan’s announcement follows the sealing of a vital deal between the United Kingdom and the European Union setting out the phrases of their post-Brexit commerce relations. The UK-Turkish association can come into power solely after the EU-UK deal is activated due to Turkey’s membership of the EU Customs Union, which additionally it is in search of to improve to extra advantageous phrases.

But Turkey’s dismal human rights report and its aggressive posturing in opposition to EU members Greece and Cyprus within the jap Mediterranean Sea make it unlikely {that a} deal might be struck anytime quickly. 

If something, EU leaders have been mulling sanctions on Turkey. EU leaders have up to now shunned inflicting actual ache, primarily at Germany’s behest. But this might change when Germany’s conflict-averse chancellor, Angela Merkel, steps down subsequent yr.

Either manner, Turkey’s prospects of becoming a member of the European Union, with which it launched full membership talks in 2005, are trying extra distant than ever. As such, Britain — a fellow outlier — appears a pure companion.

“Both countries are strategically drifting and seeking an anchor after their divorce from Europe. They seem to have found one another in the wilderness,” mentioned Asli Aydintasbas, a senior fellow on the European Council on Foreign Relations. The UK-Turkey deal is vital for 2 causes, she famous in emailed feedback to Al-Monitor: “It points to a post-Europe life that other countries may also find interesting at some point in the future. It is also important for Turkey because this more or less defines what Turkey’s relationship with the EU will eventually be — a tight free trade regime with no political strings attached.” Paradoxically, as Turkey seeks EU membership and Britain strikes in the other way, “both [will] end up with the same type of relationship with the EU,” Aydintasbas concluded.

Samuel Ramani, a doctoral candidate in worldwide relations at Oxford University, agrees that the Turkey-UK commerce deal can supply Turkey more room to maneuver because it faces sanctions from the European Union and from the United States as nicely over its acquisition of Russian-made S-400 missiles. “Given this trade deal and the pledge from the British side to a more comprehensive new trading agreement in 2021, it is unlikely the UK would join this sanctions regime,” he informed Al-Monitor.

Ramani continued, “In particular, Turkish agricultural goods are going to have a stronger presence in the UK, which makes it harder for Britain to change its policy on Turkey sanctions in the future.”

Britain itself suspended arms gross sales to Turkey following its October 2019 invasion of northeast Syria focusing on a US-backed Kurdish militia. But the restriction solely affected arms to be used in Syria.

Meanwhile, Gulf Cooperation Council members will probably be disgruntled by the alacrity by which the Turkish-UK accords had been produced. Former British Prime Minister Theresa May had pledged to beat the European Union in signing a free commerce settlement with the GCC. “Negotiations stalled and even a smaller UK-UAE agreement did not work out,” Ramani recalled. GCC heavyweights Saudi Arabia and the UAE view Erdogan’s Turkey as hostile.

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