Turkish exports to Saudi Arabia have been significantly hit by the informal boycott of Turkish goods, bringing the trade figures to a record low in January, despite recent efforts to better strained ties between Ankara and Riyadh.
The exports from Turkey to the kingdom dropped 92.5% in the first month of the year, from nearly $221.9 million (TL 1.59 billion) to nearly $16.6 million, the Turkish Exporters Union (TIM) data showed.
Riyadh’s antagonistic regional moves against Turkey reached their peak when dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered within the walls of Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. The international community has blamed the Saudi authorities for Khashoggi's murder, namely Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, also known as MBS. The whereabouts of Khashoggi’s body remain unknown.
Aside from the Khashoggi incident, Saudi Arabia’s rapprochement with Israel, support of the coup in Egypt and stance when it comes to Libya and Syria are other points of contention between Ankara and Riyadh.
In October last year, the head of Saudi Arabia’s Chambers of Commerce called for a boycott of Turkish products amid reports from merchants that animosity between Ankara and Riyadh was hindering the flow of goods between the two regional powers.
Later in the same month, Ferdi Erdoğan, head of the Association of Turkish Construction Material Producers (IMSAD), said that Turkish exporters had been experiencing growing difficulties in dealing with Saudi Arabia for a year, “but in the recent period, the pressure on businessmen in Saudi Arabia ‘to not buy made in Turkey’ has come up.”
Following several months of a semiofficial embargo, an official statement came from Turkish authorities. The Turkish exporters’ union said on Nov. 27 that it was informed by the Trade Ministry that imports of some Turkish goods had been officially suspended earlier the same month.
In November last year, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman agreed to keep the channels of dialogue open to improve bilateral relations and resolve problems, a statement released by the Turkish Presidency said, following a phone call between the two leaders.
In 2019, Turkish exports to the kingdom amounted to $3.1 billion. In 2020, neither Turkish nor Saudi trade data showed an unusually large drop in two-way trade, even allowing for strains on global commerce from the coronavirus pandemic. In the second quarter, Turkey was Saudi Arabia’s 12th-largest trading partner by total import value.