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Turkey, UK 'very close' to free trade deal

Turkey and the UK are “very close” to signing a free trade agreement for the post-Brexit era, according to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. An article by the Financial Times quoted Cavusoglu as saying negotiations between the two countries on a trade deal covering manufactured goods, agriculture, and services are “going very well and we are close to finalizing it.” Cavusoglu visited London on Wednesday to hold talks with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

“If you look at the volume of our bilateral trade, 95% of it is industrial products, and we agreed on that . . . and 5% is agriculture and services,” Cavusoglu said.

The daily underlined that the UK is Turkey’s second-biggest trading partner after Germany with a trade volume of £18.8 billion ($23.7 billion) and more than 2,500 UK companies are operating in Turkey, including BP, Shell, Vodafone, Unilever, BAE Systems, HSBC, Aviva, and Diageo.

Turkey and the UK have been holding trade talks which gained speed after Britain’s exit from the EU on Dec. 31, 2019, and the UK is getting ready to sign trade deals with a few third countries straight after the exit transition period, which is unlikely to be extended beyond the end of this year.

The article underlined that Turkey is a member of the EU customs union, meaning a deal with the UK “could be implemented only once Britain has secured an [exit] agreement with the European bloc.”

The trade deal between the UK and has yet to be finalized, as the latest round of talks went ahead this week in London.

$20B bilateral trade target

The article said: “If the two sides are unable to secure a deal by the end of the year, Ankara could face a dilemma over whether to push ahead with the agreement with Britain and risk breaching EU rules. Mr Cavusoglu acknowledged that would be a ‘bizarre situation’, while adding that the UK was a ‘strategic ally’.”

“We agreed already with the UK that in the post-Brexit era we will increase our bilateral trade; in volume we set a $20 billion [bilateral trade] target,” Cavusoglu said.

The daily also said British officials from the UK’s Department for International Trade said talks are “progressing well” and that International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and Trade Minister Ranil Jayawardena will meet their Turkish counterparts next week for talks.

Cavusoglu said Ankara is hoping to negotiate a separate immigration deal that would grant Turks special status when the UK implements new migration rules, according to the report.

“We have been negotiating two separate agreements, one is the FTA [free trade agreement], one is similar to the Ankara Agreement,” said Cavusoglu, referring to a visa scheme pact for Turkish businesspeople predating Britain joining the EU.

On Wednesday, Cavusoglu said during the meeting with Raab and Johnson that they spoke on relations in the post-pandemic era, a bilateral post-Brexit free trade agreement, cooperation in tourism, health tourism, and the defense industry, as well as other international and regional issues, including Libya, Syria, and NATO.

He stressed in a briefing with Turkish reporters that Turkey and the UK would cooperate in many fields after Brexit, adding that “even if the UK departs from the EU, it will continue to be one of the most important parts of the European continent.”

Cavusoglu said that along with the bilateral trade pact, they also took up the future of the Ankara Agreement to prevent Turkish citizens from getting caught in any possible Brexit fallout.

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