By  on February 28, 2002

WASHINGTON -- Alan Larson, the U.S. State Department undersecretary for economic, business and agricultural affairs, laid the groundwork to extend textile and apparel trade relief to Turkey, as he wrapped up two days of talks there on Wednesday.

Larson, who was visiting Turkey as part of the Turkish-American Economic Partnership Commission aimed at boosting trade, said a major focus of the discussion was on Turkey's growing textile and apparel exports to the U.S.

"We have tried to determine short- and long-term opportunities regarding economic policies, trade and investment at these meetings," said Ugur Ziyal, Turkey's undersecretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at a news conference in Ankara on Wednesday. "We have made a lot of progress to this end+yet we have a lot more work to do."

Larson said the U.S. is aware of the importance of textile exports to the U.S., citing a 150 percent increase in Turkish textile exports to the U.S. since 1995.

"Our focus is on facilitating Turkey's recovery, promoting Turkish economic growth and helping Turkey become competitive as a modern economy in the global economy," said Larson at the same news conference.

In a joint statement, Larson and Ziyal said they made progress in laying the foundation for the establishment of qualified industrial zones in Turkey, like those established by the U.S. in Jordan, which are linked to a free-trade agreement with Israel.

Under a QIZ, Turkey would be able to export certain products, including apparel, duty-free to the U.S. The U.S. would need congressional approval to amend legislation to include Turkey to the QIZ program.

"This is an initiative that we think could create high paying jobs in Turkey and promote both investment in Turkey and exports from Turkey to the United States," Larson said at the news conference.

The other major focus of the discussions was on Turkey's growing textile exports to the U.S., according to the statement. The group agreed to take steps to facilitate Turkey's access to the U.S. market by extending benefits under the Generalize System of Preferences to hand-knit and hand-woven carpet imports. It also agreed to enter into a certified handicraft textile agreement, which will provide GSP benefits for six tariff categories of textiles, though those categories were not identified.Apparel and textile imports from Turkey totaled 870.9 million square equivalents with a value of $1.45 billion in 2001, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The offer of textile and apparel concessions fell short of Turkey's request in January for initiating discussions on a free-trade agreement or a preferential trade pact. As part of any agreement, Turkey is seeking a reduction in tariffs on a number of products, including textiles and apparel.

Reaction from importer and textile trade groups was mixed.

"We cannot go bailout every country in world that cannot manage its economy properly," said Charles Bremer, director of international trade at the American Textile Manufacturers Institute.

Bremer said QIZs are too much to offer to Turkey, though he acknowledged that the extension of GSP benefits to hand-knotted carpets and handicrafts would not have much of an impact.

"Why is Turkey coming to us with a tin cup?" asked Bremer rhetorically. "They can export to the European Union all day long."

Julia Hughes, vice president of international trade at the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel, said any concessions to Turkey are a move in the right direction, though these offers won't "be gangbusters in terms of opening the U.S. market to them.

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