GENEVA — Trading partners in a World Trade Organization forum led by the U.S. and China lauded the continued strong economic performance of Turkey despite the ongoing geopolitical turmoil in the region.
“Turkey has remained a source of impressive economic growth in its region…despite the political, security, social and economic turmoil many of its neighbors have faced in recent years, ” Michael Punke, deputy U.S. Trade Representative, told a two-day WTO review session of Turkey’s trade regime that ended Thursday.
“Foreign trade and investment have, if anything, grown in importance to Turkey’s economy.…Turkey’s services sector continues its strong role in generating [gross domestic product], while a diverse and remarkably resilient manufacturing sector remains the bedrock of Turkey’s exports,” Punke said. “The disturbances at Turkey’s doorstep have undeniably put pressure on the economy.”
Similarly, China’s delegate, Yu Benlin, said Turkey has continued to post “impressive growth rates” despite external challenges and against a backdrop of low global economic growth.
Turkey is hosting 2.7 million refugees of the estimated 5 million who have fled the civil war in neighboring Syria, and tensions with Russia over the Syrian conflict have also adversely impacted recently Turkish exports. Continued conflict in Iraq has also not helped.
Hüsnü Dilemre, deputy undersecretary at Turkey’s ministry of economy, told WTO delegates the annual growth rate averaged 5.4 percent between 2009 and 2014 and added that despite geopolitical tensions in the region, “the Turkish economy posted a robust performance in 2015, with a growth rate of around 4 percent.”
Dilemre said Turkish exports in volume terms also increased last year by 1.3 percent.
Turkey, a member of the G20 group of major economies, and with a population of 77.2 million, is the 17th largest economy in the world with output worth nearly $800 billion or $10,390 per capita in 2014, according to a report by the WTO secretariat used as the reference for the review session.
The WTO report also highlighted that Turkey’s well-established textiles and apparel industry in 2014 accounted for $29.2 billion, of which apparel was valued at $16.3 billion, or 18.5 percent of total exports of goods that exceeded $157.7 billion.
Turkish textiles and apparel companies, the report shows, “exported to 194 countries” and adds that although the European Union remains the most important destination, the U.S., Russia and Middle East markets are also commercially important destinations.
The report states there are more than 52,000 textile and apparel companies in Turkey, with more than 918,000 employees, with knitted and woven apparel its principal export lines. However, the WTO critically noted that the industry “remains relatively highly protected” and adds the tariff for textiles in 2015 stood at 6.7 percent and 11.5 percent for apparel.
In a similar vein, trading partners singled out Turkey’s extensive use of antidumping and other trade-defense measures, including in the textiles and apparel sector.
China’s Yu said Turkey was “one of the main WTO users of safeguard and antidumping measures, and trade remedies continued to be an important policy tool. China was still most affected by Turkey’s antidumping and countervailing measures in force, since the majority of them were initiated on products originating from China.”
Turkey has imposed punitive antidumping duties on imports from China of woven fabrics of synthetic filament, textured yarn of nylon, and yarn of man-made or synthetic or artificial staple fibers.
The Chinese official called on Turkey to “refrain” from using trade remedies.
Punke drew attention to Turkey’s ongoing antidumping investigation of U.S. cotton exports “where Turkey appears neither to have provided sufficient disclosure nor evidence to justify the imposition of a measure.”