Türkiye, UK to start negotiations for free trade deal in first half of next year

Türkiye, UK to start negotiations for free trade deal in first half of next year

'Updated deal to further enhance trade between 2 countries, thereby strengthening our exporters in this region,' says Turkish ambassador to the UK

By Zuhal Demirci

LONDON (AA) - Türkiye and the UK are looking to start negotiations for the free trade agreement (FTA) in the first half of next year, said Turkish Ambassador to the UK Osman Koray Ertas on Wednesday.

"We will broaden the scope of the FTA," he said in an interview with Anadolu.

"A joint committee meeting was held recently, and this political will has been officially recorded. The updated deal will further enhance the trade between the two countries, thereby strengthening our exporters in this region," he said.

The existing FTA, signed in December 2020, predominantly covers industrial goods and has provided continuity to businesses and safeguarding of supply chains following Brexit.

But it does not cover key areas such as services, digital and data, the UK's Department for Business and Trade said.

Ertas stressed the increasing importance of cooperation in the defense industry between the two countries.

He said Turkish defense industry companies are showing more interest in collaboration with the UK, and highlighted recent developments such as a Turkish defense industry company acquiring a British defense company.


- UK, important target country for Türkiye in terms of tourism

He said one of the positive agenda items between the two is tourism, noting that approximately 3.4 million British tourists visited Türkiye last year.

He said the UK ranks 3rd in terms of the number of tourists visiting Türkiye.

"Therefore, the UK is a very important target country for us, and it holds critical importance in terms of tourism. The figures up until May of this year are encouraging. There is about a 21% increase compared to the same period last year," he added.

He said more than 1.2 million people traveled to the country for health tourism alone last year.

Ertas also pointed out that a significant number of tourists from the UK visit Türkiye for health-related purposes every year, emphasizing the importance of the private sector in health tourism, just as in travel tourism.


- Migration issue

Responding to claims that the UK would send third-country nationals who are irregular migrants to Türkiye, Ertas said these claims do not reflect the truth.

He underscored that Türkiye has no intention of accepting third-country nationals from any country, including the UK.

"We are not willing to share the burden of immigration from any country. In fact, the country is already fulfilling its obligations in this regard. Therefore, there is absolutely no new regulation or negotiation to accept third-country nationals from the UK or any other country in this context."

He highlighted that Turkish citizens occasionally fall victim to migrant smuggling networks and emphasized that Türkiye accepts its citizens within the framework of their constitutional rights, regardless of their location in the world.

He said that Türkiye has signed readmission agreements with numerous countries, including Romania, Greece, Nigeria, and Pakistan to combat irregular migration.

"We are returning irregular migrants who come to Türkiye from certain countries back within the framework of these agreements. We are sending them to Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other countries. In this context, bilateral arrangements are quite common and serve as significant instruments in combating irregular migration," he said.

He also discussed upcoming high-level visits between the two countries and mentioned the planned visit of the UK's Foreign Secretary James Cleverly to Türkiye, with preparations underway.​​​​​​​

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