The program, known as Generalized System of preferences, aims to promote economic growth in developing countries.
Radio Sputnik has discussed the timing of Turkey's trade preference review by the US with Doga Eralp, Professorial Lecturer on International Peace and Conflict Resolution at the School of International Service, Co-Director of South-West Asia Group.
Sputnik: The news about the review comes amid tensions between the two nations over the Pastor Brunson dispute. What do you make of the timing of Turkey's trade preferences review and its message?
Doga Eralp: Obviously, Ankara now wants to retaliate to measures taken up by the Trump administration. There’s the response to the US’s ongoing tariffs on steel and other products. Turkey also now wants to retaliate across a number of goods that they’ve been importing from the US. So it’s kind of a retaliatory measure.
Doga Eralp: Well, obviously, we have to look into the future of Turkish-American relations dating back to the start of the Cold War. Turkey and the US have been close allies over the past seven decades. The relationship they had over the decades has gone through certain periodic turmoil and this one is one of them. We have to keep in mind that the relationship between Turkey and the US is one that constantly needs to be supported by both actors. Both parties are trying to find a workable solution but in the meantime they’re also upping the ante. They are trying to consolidate their bargaining position. Both parties are not willing to let go of this struggle; to go off that easily. Obviously, relations will continue deteriorating but I don’t think the parties are willing to let go of the conflict.
Sputnik: If the United States decides to remove Turkey from this program, how damaging could that be for Ankara?
Doga Eralp: Obviously, Turkey’s largest trading partner is not the United States. Turkey’s largest trading partners are the European Union countries, and also Russia is an important partner in trade. Obviously the sanctions that may be imposed on Turkish imports are being kept out of this preferential agreement would have more of a symbolic value in Turkish-American relations, which would mean that Turkey and the US are not the strategic allies they used to be but rather transactional partners. And also you have to keep in mind that Turkey is one of the biggest exporters of steel to the US. This would hurt the steel industry, if any, in Turkey in a very direct way.
Doga Eralp: We have to keep in mind that the relationship between the US and Turkey is not necessarily one of strategic partnership, but rather of a transactional nature. And besides it has been evolving into this situation ever since the end of the Cold War. Turkey’s preferences are in its near outer world, meaning the Caucasus, Balkans, Middle East, Near East and Central Asia are no longer as overlapping with the interest of the United States. So what Turkey is doing, as any regional power would do at one point in time, is diversifying its partners. This is independent of the Erdogan government besides all of it being in the works ever since the end of the Cold War; they have just now figured out how to express it. Now, Turkey with the emergence of the BRICS is trying to diversify its partners and trying to conserve its riches by building partnerships not only with Russia but also with China. And that’s not necessarily against the US but it’s a change of relationships and obviously the rising political tensions between the two countries make it look like it’s a political choice, but it’s almost a transactional choice for Turkey at this point.
Doga Eralp: The circles in the United States’ capital, especially in the Pentagon, are obviously not happy with that. At the end of the day Turkey is a NATO member and, as all NATO-member countries do, Turkey has to use NATO-origin weaponry systems in their military service. S-400 systems obviously don’t fit into this, but the reason that Turkey actually wanted to look into the S-400 is, of course, that the United States and its allies were not as willing to give the Patriot missile systems to Turkey. So Turkey looked for an alternative. As I told you earlier, this is a transactional relationship, so that may mean that Turkey may use the agreement it signed with Moscow as a bargaining chip with the United States to secure the delivery of the Patriot missile defense systems. I think there’s still more in store we need to look at. I don’t think anything is set in stone right now, but obviously the military circles in Washington aren’t happy with that.The views expressed in this article are those of the speaker, and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.