Turkey 'needs to join transatlantic trade deal
Turkey should not be left adrift amid plans between the United States and the European Union to sign a transatlantic trade cooperation deal, a leading Turkish businessman has said. "The transatlantic free trade agreement to be signed between the U.S. and the EU holds great risks for Turkey as the agreement will force Turkey to ease the trade and investment for the U.S. because of the customs union between Turkey and the EU," Ekim Alptekin, the president of the Turkish-American Business Association, has warned during the dinner he hosted. The U.S. and EU launched moves on Feb. 13 to open negotiations on a new free trade pact that seeks to eliminate or minimize barriers everywhere. The free trade agreements between the EU and third parties enable these other countries' goods to enter European markets or Turkish markets via Europe with zero duties, but the decision to provide the same privileges to Turkey is up to the discretion of the third party. As the Customs Union structure grants the U.S. the authority to decide about whether or not to extend favorable trading privileges to Turkey, the current period represents an opportunity to persuade U.S. politicians to realize the bilateral interests at stake, he said. Alptekin said Turkey should pursue separate negotiations in parallel to the main U.S.-EU talks to establish a mutually beneficial trade relationship. A similar trade agreement between the U.S. and Turkey would boost the bilateral trade and investment relations between the countries, which have been lower than they should have been, the businessman said. "Turkey has exported around $5.6 billion worth of goods to the U.S. while importing $14 billion in 2012 – records over the last two years. These figures, however, are below the potential," he said. The deterioration of the European economy, Turkey's number-one trade partner, increases the importance of economic liberalization and opening trade channels between the U.S. and Turkey, according to Alptekin. He said the transatlantic trade should be perceived as a second Marshall Fund, as this will make a great contribution to the EU economy, which has been struggling to end the crisis on the back of its own efforts. Turkey should not miss the opportunity to be part of a trade pact that is much more comprehensive, he added. The state-level attempts to establish more comprehensive ties have been laudable but they remain insufficient, he said, adding that that placed an additional burden on business people and the Turkish community living in the US. The association has been cooperating with the Turkish community in the U.S., eying to raise consciousness, he said.