No US-Turkey free trade zone deal in the pipeline

No US-Turkey free trade zone deal in the pipeline

Gökhan Kurtaran ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
No US-Turkey free trade zone deal in the pipeline

This company photo shows metal casting employees working at a plant in Michigan. Turkish businessmen support the establishment of a free trade zone with the US. AFP Photo

The U.S. vice president expressed support for enhancing trade relations with Turkey during a recent visit, but the absence of a free trade deal between the two weakens potential cooperation, a Turkish business association head has said.

 “The United States is not open to signing a free trade agreement with Turkey,” Rıza Nur Meral, the head of the Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists of Turkey (TUSKON), told the Hürriyet Daily News during a phone interview yesterday.

“Their possible concerns might be groundless as we can increase the trade in all ways, in terms of both imports and exports through a free trade agreement,” said Meral.

“What Turkey has learned through the free trade agreements we signed with many countries in recent years stimulates both imports and export, which are generally followed by significant foreign direct investment,” he said. “The same could be realized with the U.S. too.”

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said during an Istanbul meeting on Dec. 3 that Turkish-U.S. economic and military relations were improving and that there had been a 45 percent rise in trade between the two countries this year when compared with the same period last year.

However, such a deal with Turkey still needs time, according to Lorraine Hariton, special representative for Commercial and Business Affairs of the U.S. State Department.

“We have just ratified three free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama,” Hariton told the Daily News on the sidelines of the Istanbul event.

“I think we can take a broader look to our trade relations [with Turkey] now,” she said, adding that her country was currently focusing on free trade deals in Asia.

“Enhancing trade relations with Turkey is a great opportunity as it’s a fast developing country we want to trade with,” Hariton said.

According to Meral, the establishment of the same type of trade agreement as the U.S. has with Jordan and Israel, in which goods manufactured in Turkey could be exported to the U.S. market without being subjected to any duty tariff barriers, is “inevitable” if trade is going to increase.

Turkey’s exports fall significantly short compared with U.S. exports to the country, according to official data by the U.S. Census Bureau. Turkey’s total export to U.S. rose to $4.20 billion last year from $3 billion in 2000, while imports from the U.S. to Turkey rose to $10.5 billion from $3.7 billion in the same period.

In the first nine months of this year, Turkey’s exports to the U.S. market hit $3.93 billion while imports from the U.S. broke an all-time record in September with a figure of $11.13 billion.