Turkey negotiates and concludes free trade agreements with third countries in parallel with the global trend towards free trade agreements and its commitment to the customs union. Under the EU common tariff, preferential trade regimes are the most important part of trade policy towards third countries. Ata Akiner, a former research intern with the Washington Institute`s Turkish Research Program, is a trade policy analyst at Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt and Mosle LLP. Turkey was one of 120 countries participating in the GSP, the oldest and largest trade preference program in the United States. The aim is to promote economic development in the beneficiary countries and territories by removing tariffs on thousands of products. The Turkey-EU customs union has eliminated tariffs, quantitative restrictions and measures of equivalent effect in trade in industrial products to ensure the free movement of goods. As a result of the customs union, Turkey has opened its internal market to competition in the EU and third countries, while guaranteeing its exporters free access to the EU market. In addition, Turkey is committed to adapting to the preferential regimes that the EU applies to third countries and to harmonising its legislation with the EU acquis in a wide range of areas, including technical standards and regulations, as well as competition policy. However, agricultural trade is carried out between the contracting parties under the preferential system; trade in steel products is governed by the free trade agreement between Turkey and the European Coal and Steel Community.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States ended Turkey`s preferential trade treatment on Thursday, allowing some exports to enter the country duty-free, but halved its tariffs on Turkish steel imports to 25 percent. Nevertheless, Turkey`s economic maturity is the main driver of calls for a free trade agreement. The numbers speak for themselves. According to the International Monetary Fund, Turkey had a gross domestic product of $794 billion last year, making it the world`s seventh largest economy. Similarly, per capita income has increased to about $10,600, about 50% more than a decade ago, if inflation is adjusted. Meanwhile, the long-standing U.S. trade surplus with Turkey reached $6.2 billion last year and is expected to continue this year. This page lists the free trade agreements signed by Turkey.  In 1995, Turkey signed a customs union with the European Union for products other than agricultural products and services. Since 2018, the EU has been Turkey`s main trading partner, with 50% of its exports and 36% of its imports.  A TURUS free trade agreement could also encourage domestic policy reforms in Turkey. Although not as comprehensive as THE EU membership requirements, US free trade agreements generally deal with human rights, labour rights and environmental issues.
One of the stated objectives of these agreements is even to strengthen the rule of law in partner countries. For example, Congress was reluctant to approve the recent free trade agreement between the United States and Colombia, until the Colombian government addressed human rights and labour law issues and gave assurances that are still closely monitored. Turkey can expect similar treatment, which could have positive consequences on topics highlighted during the country`s recent mass protests, including the environment, women`s rights, good procedure and press freedom. Washington may have geopolitical reasons to now show interest in a trade deal, such as rewarding Ankara for its cooperation on sanctions against Iran, supporting the Syrian opposition and striving to get closer to Israel. Turkey is an important player in the region and its role is only increasing, which is why Washington and the EU clearly have an interest in keeping Ankara close.