HomeBussinessUK embarks on post-Brexit trade talks with Turkey

UK embarks on post-Brexit trade talks with Turkey

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The UK and Turkey have started talks about a post-Brexit free trade agreement targeting the service sector of the economy.

The UK government said there were “huge opportunities” for British businesses in exporting to Turkey, as one of the fastest-growing economies in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development group of nations, with trade between the two countries worth £26bn in 2022.

Ministers had announced in July last year their intention to hold trade talks with Turkey, and last November began months of consultation with businesses and trade groups over the UK’s priorities for an agreement.

The government said UK businesses including Deloitte, Diageo and Vodafone had helped to shape negotiation objectives through a public call for input, before the first round of detailed discussions scheduled for the summer.

The talks come at a delicate moment in ties between Turkey and western governments after the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who holds warmer relations with Russia than other Nato member states, held up the progress of Sweden’s membership until his government granted its backing in January.

Kemi Badenoch, the UK trade secretary, said Turkey was an “important economic and strategic partner” and that a trade deal could help boost exports of British services.

Badenoch launched the talks in London on Thursday alongside her Turkish counterpart, Ömer Bolat.

A deal could also give British consumers improved choice and better access to imported Turkish goods such as nuts, bulgar wheat and tomatoes, the government said.

Britain already has a trade deal with Turkey, which was rolled over after Brexit in a continuity agreement to minimise disruption. Before leaving the EU, the UK benefited from trading with Turkey through an EU-Turkey customs union.

Turkey had launched membership talks with the EU in 2005, but the accession process and efforts to expand its customs deal have since stalled amid concerns in EU capitals over the gradual erosion of democracy under Erdoğan.

While Turkey’s economy has grown at a rapid pace over Erdoğan’s 20 years in power, it has also been rocked by successive crises, including bouts of galloping inflation and crashes in the Turkish lira triggered by the president’s unorthodox stance on economic policy.

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The UK government said Turkey presented significant opportunities for British businesses, including in transport, engineering, financial services, manufacturing and tech, driven in part by the country’s decarbonisation efforts and significant investment in rail.

It said the deal would focus on the UK’s strengths in services, which make up 80% of GDP, while highlighting that in 2020 there were 57,000 UK jobs supported by exports to Turkey, of which 68% were in services.

“An upgraded deal will give the UK’s world-leading services sector a competitive edge in this growing market and has the potential to support jobs across the UK,” Badenoch said.

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