Escalating Mideast Tensions, Trade Conflicts to Hit Turkey Hard

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Escalating tensions and trade conflicts across the Middle East are going to hit Turkey disproportionately hard, US experts told Sputnik.

In 2014, according to Turkish foreign trade statistics, exports to Russia were worth $5.9 billion while imports from Russia were worth $25.2 billion.

“Disruption of trade and joint ventures for long-lived infrastructure can be costly to both countries, but it looks like more harmful to Turkey,” retired assistant professor of economics at Brown University Barry Friedman told Sputnik.

Turkey was particularly dependent on Russia for large and reliable oil and gas imports, Friedman pointed out.

“Turkey loses sales and tourism, but the big deal is the gas/oil and joint investments in pipelines and transportation projects.”

Russia imposed economic sanctions on Turkey on January 1 after Turkish fighter planes shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 bomber on November 24 and those sanctions have had an immediate impact on the Turkish economy, Institute for Gulf Affairs Policy Analyst Adam Whitcomb told Sputnik.

“The sanctions noted create an economic dip within the Eurasian country, Russia is Turkey’s third largest trading partner, 10 percent of all Turkish tourists are Russian, and the sanctions have been estimated to result in a total loss of $20 billion, 2.5 percent of Turkey’s GDP.”

However much Turkey suffers from the new sanctions, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is unlikely to apologize to Russia to get them lifted, Whitcomb predicted.

“Beyond the facts of economics lie the implications of geopolitics… Turkey will not go scrambling back to Russia to make amends for their actions in spite of a waning economy.”

Erdogan was unlikely to succeed in his tactic of trying to get the World Trade Organization (WTO) to force or persuade Russia to lift the sanctions, Friedman stated.

“I don’t expect the WTO could have a rapid effect to reverse impact of Russian sanctions. Are they going to tell Russian tourists they should continue to vacation in Turkey? No. That Russian companies and government should continue to invest in joint infrastructure? No.”

Erdogan should swallow his pride and publicly apologize to Russia for shooting down the aircraft, Friedman argued.

“Turkey has made their point about protecting borders. Is it time now to pay compensation for the Russian planes, with some face-saving agreement to avoid such incidents in the future… and back to business with normal trade and investment?”

Even if that happened, Turkey faced the likelihood of a serious economic slump because of the rapidly growing tensions and conflicts across the region, Whitcomb warned.

“Acts of international violence over the past few months have caused regional superpowers in the Middle East and Eurasia to retract communication, air travel, and commerce with each other, ultimately deepening the divide between Western allied and non-allied nations.”

Russia’s Agriculture Minister Alexander Tkachev has stated that Turkish vegetables account for 20 percent of vegetable imports to Russia but Moscow was free to buy such produce from other countries and it could also find buyers for its wheat exports in other parts of the Middle East.

 

 

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