World Bulletin/News Desk
Turkey may have to freeze its customs union agreement with the EU if it is left out of a proposed EU-U.S. trade deal, Turkey's EU minister has said.
Volkan Bozkir's comments came at a meeting with Turkish journalists in the Norwegian capital on Wednesday, where he arrived the previous day for a three-day visit.
The EU-US trade deal, which is officially known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement, is a proposed free trade agreement which is still in the negotiation phase.
Turkey is concerned about the agreement since it has no say in the ongoing negotiations between the EU and the U.S., but would have to abide by its terms and conditions because of its Customs Union with the EU.
Norway, which is also a non-EU state but a member of the European Free Trade Association, could face the same problems, Bozkir said. He added that the two countries discussed how they could cooperate to avoid such problems.
"Turkey is the only country which signed the Customs Union Agreement without being a member of the EU," Bozkir said, adding that the current trade volume between Turkey and the EU amounted to €150 billion, and 45% of this volume was based on exports.
"Therefore, any trade agreement signed between the bloc and third-parties would damage the Turkish economy due to the fact that Turkey would have to go and sign a free trade agreement with those countries," he stressed.
The minister said that if the proposed EU-US trade deal is signed, and Turkey is left out, the economy would suffer considerably.
"The only solution would be to include an article in the agreement so that Turkey automatically becomes a party to it. Unless this happens, the economic impact will be massive," he said.
"And I don't want this to be considered a threat or blackmail, but in that case, Turkey would have to freeze the customs union agreement or prevent the U.S. from benefitting from the free trade deal," he added.
Turkish officials argue that future free trade agreements signed by the EU with other countries, such as the U.S., would effectively open Turkey’s market to exports from these states because Ankara is a signatory of the Customs Union Agreement.
But, at the same time, it would also effectively block Turkish exports from benefiting from tax advantages in those same states, should Ankara not be a party to the free trade deals negotiated by the EU.
The Customs Union Agreement with the EU, which was signed in 1995, has come under criticism as of late in Turkey as advantages acquired over the last 19 years have slowly been eroded.
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