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Turkey denies shift toward the East

Turkey denies shift toward the East

A government minister on Thursday rejected claims that Turkey is turning its back on the West, insisting that his country's Islamic-oriented government is seeking trade partnerships around the world.
Zafer Caglayan, the minister who oversees foreign trade, told The Associated Press in an interview that his upcoming trip to the United States to boost trade is evidence that Turkey is committed to close ties with its ally.
The minister said trade between the two countries is far below its potential and that he will work to "triple and even quadruple" it during the next few years.
"We are old allies and have deep, friendly and brethren ties. But when we look at our trade figures, I hesitate to term our ties as a 'model partnership,'" Caglayan said. "Turkey has a tiny share in the overall U.S. trade volume. Our trade just does not match up to our friendship."
"There is no question of any shift in orientation," the minister said. "Turkey has made it a principle to trade with all regions of the world."
The minister was speaking before his weeklong trip to four U.S. states _ Illinois, California, Georgia and Texas _ designed to work out a strategy to develop trade ties based on individual needs of states. Caglayan departs Turkey on Saturday.
The United States is Turkey's seventh largest trading partner, while Turkey ranks 48th in exports to the United States, the minister said. Two-way trade stands at US$11.8 billion.
The government's investor-friendly and export-driven policies have helped Turkey rack up an impressive economic growth of 11.7 percent in the first quarter of the year, and Caglayan says both Turkey and the United States stand to benefit from Turkey's economic prowess.
Caglayan said his country is seeking preferential trade treatment from Washington and the easing of quotas. The two countries also are looking to jointly invest in third countries.
The trip, however, comes against a backdrop of tension between the two longtime allies, despite a visit last year by President Barak Obama and assertions that their strategic partnership is based on aligned interests in economic and foreign policy.
Last month, Turkey voted against U.S.-backed sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program that ultimately passed in the U.N. Security Council. The vote came shortly after Turkey tried to broker a nuclear fuel-swap deal with Iran as an alternative to sanctions.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also was unhappy that the U.S. did not join Turkey in sharply criticizing an Israeli raid on an aid flotilla bound for Gaza that killed eight Turks and a Turkish-American.
Some fear that Turkey is so frustrated by the European Union's long-standing refusal to accept it as a member in the bloc that it is moving away from traditional alliances with the West toward new partnerships with Islamic countries such as Iran, Syria and Libya. Caglayan, however, said it was natural to trade with neighbors.
"Turkey was late in forging ties with these countries and what you see now is a Turkey trying to catch up," Caglayan said. "Those who say there is a shift in Turkey's orientation are those countries that are worried that Turkey is getting a larger share of their market."
Caglayan said his nation's relationship with the United States is strong.
"Our political ties are continuing as always," Caglayan insisted. "There is no question of our trade ties being affected, on the contrary, trade opens all doors."


Updated : 2021-06-18 19:04 GMT+08:00