Today’s Zaman, Turkey
Crisis pushed GCC to slow down Turkey FTA talks
BY ALİ ASLAN KILIÇ , ANKARA
26 December 2010
The global economic crisis of 2009 was a major reason behind Turkey’s stalled Free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which began in 2005, Foreign Trade Undersecretariat officials have said.
The slowdown in the pace of negotiations was a deliberate decision on the part of GCC countries and was not limited to talks with Turkey, the same sources, who wished to remain anonymous, told Today’s Zaman. They believe the GCC refrained from entering into international trade agreements in the 2008-2009 period because it thought doing so could risk GCC market stability. Turkey and the GCC have been negotiating an FTA for half a decade, but it has yet to be concluded. Turkey is among the few countries that emerged from last year’s crippling economic recession with minimal damage. Though Ankara was ready to sign an FTA, the GCC countries, fearing the crisis had not yet bottomed out and still had the possibility of hurting the region’s economy, refrained from finalizing talks with Turkey. The GCC also suspended ongoing negotiations with European Union countries. It had started negotiations with the EU in 1990, gaining momentum between 2002 and 2008. The date of the next session of negotiations between the EU and the GCC has not been set.
The GCC and Turkey have held four rounds of discussions on an FTA since the two signed a framework agreement on May 30, 2005. They then organized four sets of negotiations. The first took place in Riyadh on Nov. 15, 2005, the second in Ankara on April 13-14, 2006, the third in Doha on Feb. 26-27, 2008, and the last in Ankara on April 24, 2009.
However, the GCC suspended all FTA negotiations in which it had been engaging with various countries in the 2008 to 2009 period. This caused a slowdown in Turkey’s negotiations with the GCC, but Turkey has been making progress in enhancing economic cooperation with other countries. The problem was not unique to Turkey and originated from the international economic outlook, triggering reluctance on the part of the GCC to move forward on FTA talks, Turkish trade officials said.
Turkish officials also dismiss claims that Turkey’s iron and steel exports to the GCC market are a major issue in preventing the conclusion of FTA talks.