EU, Turkey announce modernization of Custom Union

EU, Turkey announce modernization of Custom Union

EU, Turkey announce modernization of Custom Union

AFP Photo

The European Union and Turkey have agreed to upgrade their decades-old Customs Union, bringing the economies of the two closer together even as Turkey’s bid to become an EU member remains in deep freeze. 

Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci and EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom announced on May 12 a framework for updating the Customs Union, which was conceived as a prelude to Turkey becoming a fully-fledged EU member and has been unchanged since 1995. 

Turkey and the EU will now discuss how to broaden sectors covered by the deal, to include services and most agricultural goods.

“We aim to have no restrictions whatsoever,” Zeybekci said during a press conference with Malmstrom, quoted by Anadolu Agency. 

Malmstrom underlined the need to modernize the Custom Union with Turkey. 

Turkey has long complained that trade deals that the EU signs with other countries do not take Turkey into account and costs the country billions of dollars. 

Zeybekci said a possible EU deal with the U.S. - known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP - is too big for Turkey to ignore. Over the past two years, Ankara has repeatedly threatened to quit the Customs Union with the EU if Turkey does not become a party to TTIP.

Malmstrom said talks on TTIP would for now continue exclusively with the U.S., though the EU will regularly update Turkey on their progress, the Wall Street Journal reported. 

“TTIP negotiations right now are taking place now between us and the U.S.,” she said. “We support when the agreement is done that Turkey can look into that.”

Turkey and the EU will now undertake their respective internal procedures to adopt this initiative and to seek the corresponding negotiating mandates, according to a note by the European Commission released on May 12. 

“Turkey is a candidate country, and accession negotiations to the EU are ongoing. The enhancement of bilateral trade relations is not an alternative to the accession negotiations of Turkey, but complementary to it,” said the note. 

Turkey is the EU’s sixth biggest trading partner, while the EU is Turkey’s biggest trading partner. 

“There is huge potential, however, to further develop these trade relations and this is precisely what the new commercial framework will make possible,” added the report.