The recent failure of the 12 countries participating in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) to conclude an agreement further delayed the timeline for completion of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
Leaders on both sides of the Atlantic have pledged to continue negotiations on TTIP. Although it is important to continue negotiating the TTIP agreement between the two largest economic markets in the world, it is also essential to take into account all the parties that will be directly affected by its outcome.
Turkey, a country that has several customs agreements with the EU, would be directly impacted should TTIP come to fruition. However, it has not been invited to the negotiating table because it is not members of the EU, thus leaving them without a voice in this important partnership.
Turkey not only deserves a place at the negotiating table, it should also be part of any final agreement as its participation in TTIP would be beneficial for all parties. Indeed, the partnership is a crucial step to promoting Turkey’s own economic development and democratization process, since it would enhance accountability, transparency and the rule of law in the country.
That is why Turkey’s EU Minister Volkan Bozkir has pushed the European Union to include Turkey in the negotiations. But Turkey’s involvement in this agreement would also be beneficial to the United States and the EU on various fronts. In recent decades the Turkish economy has grown incrementally, becoming the seventh largest economy in Europe, and the 17th largest in the world. In 2012 more than 40 percent of Turkey’s foreign trade was with the EU and the U.S. and two-thirds of Turkish capital was invested in the EU and the U.S.
In 2009, President Obama and then Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan signed the Framework for Strategic Economic & Commercial Cooperation (FSECC)—an agreement to increase U.S- Turkish bilateral economic relations. With this accord, U.S.-Turkey trade jumped from $10.8 billion in 2009 to $19.1 billion in 2014, and U.S. goods imports from Turkey totaled $6.7 billion in 2013, up six percent from 2012, and up 76 percent from 2003. Turkey is currently the U.S.’s 34th largest goods trading partner with $18.7 billion in total goods traded in 2013. Both the increase in trade and investment are small compared to its potential if Turkey were a signatory of a TTIP agreement. Welcoming Turkey to be part of the TTIP negotiations would be extremely advantageous for the United States, as well as for Turkey.
In recent years Turkish companies have expanded beyond the country’s borders and have started investing in the biggest world markets, including the United States. They have been expanding through acquisitions in particular, buying companies and establishing facilities in the U.S. In 2014 alone, Turkish companies conducted mergers and acquisitions valued at $5.14 billion.
Excluding Turkey from this partnership would signify an immense set-back for Turkey, a country that has been a loyal ally of both the United States and the EU in all aspects of foreign policy. It has been a member of NATO since 1952, collaborating in various security-related endeavors with all the transatlantic alliance. And Turkey’s position on the front lines in the fight against ISIS and protecting millions of refugees fleeing the war in Syria, make providing economic support even more important.
Moreover, the country was a founding member of various economic and political organizations ranging from GATT, the IMF and World Bank to the OECD and Council of Europe, and will soon be hosting the 2015 G-20 Meeting in November. Turkey should become a part of TTIP in order for all parties to benefit both from Turkey’s economic expansion and the increased relationship between Turkey and the EU and U.S.
Halil Danismaz is the President of the Turkish Heritage Organization, a U.S.-based non-profit organization that promotes discussion and dialogue around issues of importance in the U.S.-Turkey bilateral relationship and Turkey’s role in the international community.