Turkey to benefit from EU-Russia row: Minister

Turkey to benefit from EU-Russia row: Minister

Erdinç Çelikkan ANKARA
Turkey to benefit from EU-Russia row: Minister

Russia’s PM Vladimir Putin is seen visiting a grocery store in Moscow in this file photo. Moscow imposed a total ban on imports of several Western foods on Aug 7, as countries such as Turkey are seeking more share in the market.

The crisis that Russia is facing with the West may present Turkey new opportunities, according to Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci.

“Amid the deadlock between Russia, Ukraine, the European Union and the United States, we will carry our interests to the peak while [remaining] closer to Russia,” the minister said during a recent interview with a group of journalists. “We will gain advantages from that.”

The Russian embargo on U.S. and European goods was launched in retaliation against U.S. and European sanctions over Russia’s alleged role in eastern Ukraine separatist violence.

Russia is in talks with a number of countries such as Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan on issues like free trade or a customs union, Zeybekci said, adding that Turkey’s intention was not to join such a customs union but engage in “preferential trade.”

What happens in Russia will be a “big change” for the Turkic republics and Turkey, he said, adding that Turkey had not lost its position in free-trade deal talks between the EU and the U.S.

“Countries that account for 50 percent of world trade are reshaping the map of the economy. We cannot stay out of this in an environment that the changes so fast,” he said. “The developments in Iraq are making Turkey a compulsory [trade destination].”

The country is also a good spot for European capital, according to the minister.

“When Europe goes under a monetary expansion, there isn’t another [destination] that this money would go to,” he said.

Turkey will shift from a “passive economy” to an “active economy” starting Aug. 10, he said, in an open reference to the presidential elections over the weekend.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is competing against Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, the joint candidate of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), as well as Selahattin Demirtaş, the co-chair of the People’s Democracy Party (HDP), is promising a more hands-on presidency if elected.

“If we continue with the production and marketing habits that we are used to and have conducted until today, it will be impossible to reach the 2023 goals. We cannot reach them even by 15 to 20 percent,” he said, adding that the country had reached its current position as a subcontractor in a business habitat where raw materials and energy resources are controlled by other countries.

 “What Turkey should do next is control consumption networks itself. We can reach the 2023 [goals] only via an active economy, not a passive one,” he said.

The Middle East, the Caucasus, the northern Black Sea, the Gulf and the Arabic peninsula are the targets for such goals, he said.

The minister also said Iran would be an important country for the Turkish economy, mainly due to a recent preferential trade deal.