World Bulletin / News Desk
Turkey and the EU will begin negotiations to expand the customs union between the two trade partners next January, Turkey’s EU minister announced Wednesday.
"The Customs Union Agreement, which was signed 20 years ago between Turkey and the EU, does not include agriculture, the service sector and public procurement," Volkan Bozkir told a press conference in Istanbul.
He added: "We have been holding negotiations with the [European] Commission for 15 months for a new structure that includes those sectors. We decided to update the agreement."
Turkey wants to expand the union to boost trade with the EU to $300 billion, Bozkir said.
The customs union, which came into force in December 1995, imposes a common external tariff for all industrial and processed agricultural goods. The following year, the European Commission proposed “extending and deepening” the union and negotiations were started.
Bozkir stressed the importance of the talks and of visa liberalization that would allow Turks to visit EU countries without a visa.
He added that Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci and EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom would meet next week to sign an agreement on the renewal of talks.
Turkey has been a candidate country to join the EU since 1999. According to the European Commission website, the EU is Turkey's number one import and export partner while Turkey ranks seventh and fifth in the EU's top import and export markets, respectively.
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