A top US trade official said easing customs procedures to allow Turkish textile goods to penetrate the US market at lower tariffs is unlikely despite the US administration's commitment to high-level dialogue to boost trade.
"Turkey made a very strong case for what they would like to see happen. We were equally practical in trying to help them understand that this is a matter in which our Congress exercises very strong prerogative," US Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk said on Tuesday on the sidelines of a ministerial-level meeting as part of American-Turkish Council (ATC) talks.
The US is trying to protect its own domestic market by enforcing double-digit tariffs on clothing and other textile items. Such a high figure prevents an invasion of Chinese goods, but is much higher than the average US tariff rate of less than 2 percent. The measure, however, frustrates other countries, among them Turkey.
Kirk said it would be hard for President Barack Obama to persuade Congress to ignore or ease those duties in favor of Turkey, as the United States has done for several poor countries.
Tuesday's inaugural meeting of the US-Turkey Framework for Strategic Economic and Commercial Cooperation was co-chaired by Kirk and US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke from the US side, and Economy Minister Ali Babacan and Foreign Trade Minister Zafer Çağlayan from Turkey.
ARABAŞLIK Turkey a priority market for the US
In his speech, Locke said Turkey was a priority market for the current US administration, which aims to double US exports to this country. He said the US would undertake two trade missions to Turkey in 2011.
The two nations pledged to take top-level initiatives to boost trade during President Abdullah Gül's visit to US President Barack Obama last December. Accordingly, a new US-Turkey Business Council will be established before the end of this year to work on developing trade on 12 key sectors. Furthermore, the two countries are setting up a working group to cooperate on protecting intellectual property rights.
Turkey is one of the few nations that have a trade deficit with the US as it imported $7.1 billion worth of US goods while exporting only $3.66 billion to the world's largest economy. Turkey's exports to the US reached their apex in 2006 with $5.4 billion.
Çağlayan is aware of the imbalance in the trade figures and hopes that the fresh dialogue with Washington will mark a new era. "Turkey is determined to do as much trade as it can with every country in the world," he said.
Babacan added that Turkey has been committed to maintaining "an open economy" with all countries since embarking on economic reforms in the early 2000s. "We are implementing a multidimensional foreign policy and a multidimensional trade policy. We just want to have a high gross domestic product [GDP] for our country … and we know this will flow through more trade and investment," he said.