Washington D.C. — Washington will not allow Turkey to be excluded from a potential free trade agreement between the U.S. and EU, said Turkey's top economist Wednesday following a meeting with high-ranking officials in the U.S. capital on Wednesday. The fifth round of free trade talks between the U.S. and EU, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), will be held between May 19 and 23 in Washington, D.C.
Turkey has maintained a customs union agreement with the EU since 1995, the only country to have such a status. But it would like to be included in any free trade agreement that the U.S. may negotiate with the European bloc. "The main idea that we received from the meetings here yesterday and today is that our partner and ally, the United States, we know they will not allow such things to happen vis- à-vis Turkey," said Nihat Zeybekçi, the Turkish Minister of Economy during a joint press conference at the U.S. Commerce Department. "We are here to generate a formula to prevent any such development." Wednesday's press conference followed a meeting of the U.S.-Turkey Framework for Strategic Economic and Commercial Cooperation that included Penny Pritzker, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Michael Froman, the U.S.
Trade Representative, Ali Babacan, Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister and Zeybekçi. The commercial cooperation group is a cabinet-level dialogue between the U.S. and Turkey. It first met in October 2010 and this round of talks marks the group's third meeting All parties stand to benefit from Turkey's inclusion in the free trade agreement, said Babacan. "When Turkey becomes part of it, this will be very good for the United States, the European Union and Turkey as well," said Babacan. "This is not a zero sum game. This is a win-win situation."
Bilateral trade between the U.S. and Turkey stands at nearly $19 billion (TL 39.5 billion), up three-fold from one decade ago, according to Pritzker, the U.S. commerce chief. Still, she said that more can be done to further enhance economic ties between the two allies. "We are only scratching the surface. Today we explored how to take our relationship to the next level," she said. Babacan, the Turkish deputy prime minister, added, "When we look at these two countries, we think there are more opportunities in terms of trade and investments."
He described Wednesday's meetings as "fruitful."