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Türkiye, UK launch negotiations on new free trade deal

Trade Minister Ömer Bolat announced Thursday that negotiations regarding the update of the free trade agreement (FTA) with the United Kingdom have started.

Bolat met with U.K. Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch in London and held a bilateral meeting to discuss trade and investment relations between the two countries.

“Trade Minister Ömer Bolat met with the U.K. Minister of State for Business and Trade, Mrs. Kemi Badenoch, in London on March 14, 2024, and had a productive meeting where the trade and investment relations between the two countries were discussed,” the Trade Ministry’s statement said.

“They announced that negotiations will be initiated to update the existing Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Türkiye and the U.K., which has been in force since 2021,” it added.

“The U.K. is a strategic trading partner for our country, with a trade volume reaching $19 billion (TL 610 billion). Additionally, the U.K. is Türkiye’s fourth most important export partner and the fifth largest investor in Türkiye with $8.3 billion in direct investments,” Bolat said in a post on social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

“We view this fruitful meeting as a significant step towards further enhancing the existing economic and commercial relations between our two countries,” he added.

The U.K. already has an FTA with Türkiye, which was rolled over when Britain left the European Union, but a review by both sides last year concluded there was room for improvement under a new deal.

The current agreement ensured the preservation of existing concessions within the scope of the customs union after Brexit, thus contributing to the trade volume between the two countries, the ministry also said.

However, the parties carried out review studies to update the FTA and make it a more comprehensive agreement. Subsequently, they declared their mutual willingness to start update negotiations with a joint declaration last summer.

“We already have a thriving trade relationship that will only get stronger with a new, modernized trade deal,” British Trade Secretary Badenoch said.

She said a new deal could give Britain’s services sector “a competitive edge in this growing market and has the potential to support jobs across the U.K.”

The Trade Ministry said the first round of negotiations with Türkiye, a NATO ally, was expected to take place in the summer.

Reminding that the FTA between the two countries is based on the customs union established approximately 30 years ago, Bolat stated that the scope of the agreement is limited and covers mainly industrial goods.

Noting that the total bilateral service trade, excluding tourism, exceeded $5 billion in 2022, Bolat said, “In 2023, the total value of Türkiye’s investments in the U.K. was $4.9 billion, and the total value of the U.K.’s investments in Türkiye was $8.6 billion.”

However, he said he believed that the goods, services and investment figures are far below their potential and recalled that the areas that need to be updated for a modern FTA were evaluated.

“At the third meeting of the FTA Joint Committee held in Ankara on July 18, 2023, our technical teams shared the review results and finalized this process,” he noted.

“With the joint statement we published after this meeting, we declared our mutual willingness to start FTA update negotiations. We are delighted to learn that the U.K. has recently completed its internal process for starting negotiations,” said the minister.

“I believe that updating our FTA and expanding it to different areas will help increase and diversify our bilateral trade and further contribute to the strong cooperation and ties between our countries.”

The negotiations, which are set to begin on June 10 in London, would focus on expanding the deal to services, investments, and additional agricultural incentives while also including “comprehensive rules,” the Turkish ministry said.

Any deal could increase British consumers’ access to Turkish goods such as bulgur wheat and tomatoes and provide opportunities for British firms to increase services industry exports.

Britain is currently in trade talks with India, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and South Korea. Talks on a new FTA with Canada were put on hold earlier this year after the two sides failed to agree on removing barriers to agriculture.

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