Aspects of free trade deal with Turkey “will have to wait”, warns Regional Trade Commissioner

13 October 2020


Some parts of the free trade deal currently being negotiated by the UK and Turkey “will have to wait”, warned Britain’s Regional Trade Commissioner for the EECAN region, which includes Turkey, at a crucial business forum last week.

Around 70 business leaders from the UK, Turkey and beyond, participated in a unique online forum hosted by Chamber International on October 8th.  Focussing on the outlook for bilateral UK-Turkey trade, the forum also touched on the important impact of the present UK-EU trade negotiations on the relationship between the two nations.

Judith Slater (video below), Her Majesty’s Regional Trade Commissioner for the EECAN region (comprising 14 countries including Russia, Turkey, Mongolia and the former Soviet states of central Asia), also Her Majesty’s Consul General to Istanbul, gave an upbeat assessment of the state of negotiations, one which will give businesses from both countries continuity and enable them to, in her words, “mind the gap” at the end of the transition period on 31 December.  She described a number of “chapters” of the agreement as being “done and dusted” and “already closed”, but noted that, “we have to wait on certain aspects of the agreement until the UK-EU agreement is done, because Turkey is in a customs union with the EU.” 

While there are strong hopes that the UK will reach agreements with both Turkey and the EU by the end of 2020, if this does not happen, for whatever reason, British and Turkish companies would revert to trading according to the tariff levels set by the World Trade Organisation.  Then, as the Trade Commissioner explained, “it would really be for Turkey to decide it wanted to pursue an FTA with us in those circumstances.  We would hope that they would.  There’s a limit to what we can say about this, because we are working hard to get a deal at the moment”.

Trade between Turkey and the UK is an increasingly valuable for both countries; British exports to Turkey surged by 35% in 2018, with bilateral trade worth £19 billion per year, before the onset of Covid-19.  Only Germany imports more goods and services from Turkey than the UK does, in value terms.

Also at the forum, Lord Janvrin, the Prime Minister’s trade envoy, said: “Turkey offers real opportunities, and I urge you to think long-term, and think fundamentals”, drawing attention to Turkey’s unique domestic strengths, history and geography.  “It’s a gateway to the middle-east and central Asia, and it’s not surprising that many multinationals, Vodafone among them, have chosen Turkey as a regional hub, orchestration regional operations from there”, he continued. 

Citing the prominent examples of Muhtar Kent, former CEO and chair of Coca Cola, and Onur Genç, CEO of Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA), both of whom are Turkish, Colman Deegan, CEO of Vodafone in Turkey, himself responsible for 3,000 employees, shared his view that, with a median age of just 32 (eight years younger than the UK) and strong levels of education, it’s a “a great place to recruit”.


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