Turkey moves to expand customs union with EU

Turkey moves to expand customs union with EU

Erdinç Çelikkan - ANKARA
Turkey moves to expand customs union with EU

Economy Ministry civil servants have been conducting an update that is aimed at finding solutions to currently problematic fields in the Customs Union agreement. DHA Photo

Months after agreeing with Brussels to upgrade a decades-old Customs Union, Ankara has moved towards implementing practical steps that would bring the economies of Turkey and the European Union closer together.

“We will be sitting around the table for negotiations probably by September,” Turkey’s Economy Minister Mustafa Elitaş recently said, while also setting the end of 2017 as a prospective date for completing these negotiations for revision of the Customs Union agreement with the EU. 

Economy administration has intensified work on expanding the deal, particularly in the fields of energy, tourism, communication and contracting business.

The Economy Ministry has specified content in regards to sectors and accordingly, it plans the inclusion of 10 new fields such as energy, tourism, communication, contracting business, agricultural products, service trade, public purchases, environment, taxes and transportation within the framework of the revised deal.

Economy Ministry bureaucrats, meanwhile, have been conducting an update that is aimed at finding solutions to currently problematic fields in the existing Customs Union agreement.

Upon finalizing the work, the ministry will draft a review report that outlines alternative scenarios involving content and rules of the probable Turkey-EU Association Council decision on the issue.

The report will also detail probable positions of the related parties in regards to sectors that may be given priority. The Economy Ministry also plans to review current situation with a focus on title of right to found business and liberalization of service providing.

Conceived as a prelude to Turkey joining the EU, Customs Union hasn’t been changed since 1995. Ankara and EU officials now will discuss extending it to include services, government contracting and most agricultural goods.

In May 2015, then-Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekçi and EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom announced a framework for updating the Customs Union.

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. 

Meanwhile, over the past few years, Ankara has repeatedly threatened to quit the Customs Union with the EU if Turkey does not become a party to a possible EU deal with the U.S. - known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP.

According to figures from October 2015, the EU is Turkey’s number one import and export partner while Turkey ranks 7th in the EU’s top import market and 5th in its export markets.