ANKARA: The mutual trade between the European Union and Turkey may double to $300 billion thanks to coming updates to the Customs Union deal, Turkey’s EU Minister and the chief negotiator with the bloc has said.
“We have a Customs Union relation [with the EU],” Minister Volkan Bozkır told journalists on the sidelines of official meetings in Paris on Feb. 3. The union and Turkey exchange some 14,300 items of goods, he said. “We conduct $150 billion in [mutual annual] trade,” he said, adding that an update in the Customs Union deal with the EU was on the agenda.
“Agriculture, services, public procurements will contribute to this, and we are heading for $300 billion in trade,” he said, comparing the figure to the EU-U.S. trade volume, which stands at $700 billion. “Trade and investments will grow together,” he said. The minister was commenting on the changing paradigm in Turkey-EU ties.
The two main elements in the change in the nature of the relations are the joint challenge against the refugee crisis and the struggle against terrorism, the minister said. “Unfortunately, for years Europe, allowed some terrorist organizations to operate … instead of [moving against] them,” he said. On refugees and terrorism, the EU’s initial approach was “a panic attack,” leading it to offer Turkey money and support to improve refugee camps, he said.
“We told them that we don’t want money or anything else. If you think that this is a problem that could be resolved together, then make us feel like a part of the family,” he said. Bozkır also said Turkey was in accession talks with the EU and that this would make a difference.
The minister said the 3 billion euros promised by the EU to Turkey will be used for improving the education, health and accommodation of Syrians in the country. Some 1 billion euros of the funds will be provided by the European Commission while another 170 million euros will come from the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance, a fund that Turkey cannot utilize for some technical reasons.
Bozkır conducted meetings with French Secretary of State for European Affairs Harlem Desir at a working lunch on Feb. 3 in addition to his scheduled meeting with the members and chiefs of France’s Foreign Ministry and EU Commission.
Bozkır was also scheduled to join French business leaders at a dinner hosted by Turkey’s ambassador to France, Hakkı Akil, later or Feb. 3. He will also meet European Commissioner for European and Social Dialogue Valdis Dombrovskis and European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica in Brussels as part of the visit that will last until Feb. 5.