Free trade agreements with US a must: Minister

Free trade agreements with US a must: Minister

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Free trade agreements with US a must: Minister

Turkish Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan and Turkey’s top business leaders pose during yesterday’s summit. AA photo

If the planned Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) occurs between the United States and the European Union without supporting free trade agreements between Turkey and United States, Turkey’s trade capacities will experience severe hardship and the trade deficit will increase immensely, Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan said during a meeting with leading business and trade figures.

Turkey’s customs union agreement with the European Union will leave the country out in the cold if proper agreements are not also signed with U.S. counterparts, Çağlayan said, stressing that Turkey faced unfair competition against products entering Turkey with very low customs taxes and Turkish products facing high customs taxes abroad.

“The transatlantic agreement will affect us tremendously if it takes place,” Çağlayan said. “We are already in a position where we buy three for every unit we sell. TAFTA will force us into further deficit, as well as hampering our development in trade.”

The issue was brought to the attention of U.S. President Barack Obama through a letter penned by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is scheduled to conduct an official visit to Washington starting from May 15.

The letter underlined that it was “unacceptable for Turkey to be facing such injustice,” according to Çağlayan, who added that Erdoğan’s upcoming visit would also include events and meetings focusing on the TAFTA problem. TAFTA was also mentioned during U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s meeting, Çağlayan said.

The atmosphere around the to the problem looks hopeful, with constant diplomatic pressure being exerted and Turkish authorities remaining in high-level communications to deal with the issue, he added.

‘Customs Union historic mistake’

The problem stems from Turkey’s conditions in the Customs Union Agreement with European Union, a “historic mistake” for which Turkey has been paying for the past 18 years, Çağlayan said.

“We spend so much time and effort on this, I wish we didn’t have to … We spend so much of our energy facing these injustices from the European Union, trying to negotiate quotas and custom taxes with countries. Back at the time of its signing, the customs union trade agreement was crucial and it allowed Turkey to open to world trade. Now though, it has become unbearable,” he said.