On December 29, 2020, the UK and Turkey signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) which will become effective January 1, 2021, after the UK leaves the EU. Turkey’s Trade Minister, Rushkar Pekcan, and the British Ambassador to Turkey, Dominick Chilcott, signed the agreement.
The timing of the agreement was interesting, since the FTA was signed days after the UK and EU had managed to clinch a Brexit trade deal, with great difficulty, and after the US imposition of sanctions on Turkey for the purchase of S400 missiles from Russia (the decision to impose sanctions is likely to have its impact not just on Turkey-US ties, but also between Turkey and other NATO member states).
Commenting on the importance of the deal, Pekcan said:
The free trade agreement is a new and special milestone in the relationship between Turkey and United Kingdom.
President Recep Erdogan, while referring to the significance of the FTA a day before it was signed, had said that it would create a win-win situation for both Turkey and the UK. He also said that the deal is crucial, and dubbed it as Turkey’s most important economic agreement after the 1995 Customs Union.
Economic importance of the FTA
If one were to look at the economic significance of the deal, it is dubbed to be the fifth largest trade deal for Britain. The UK-Turkey FTA is also likely to give a significant boost to the bilateral trade between both countries. The UK is Turkey’s second largest export market (for commodities including vehicles, textiles, and electrical equipment). The agreement is also important from Turkey’s point of view because without a deal well over 75% of Turkey’s exports to the UK would have been subject to tariffs. The FTA will also ensure existing preferential tariffs for 7,600 British businesses that exported goods to Turkey in 2019.
According to estimates, the potential for bilateral trade between Turkey and Britain is up to $20 billion. Britain is Turkey’s fifth largest investor (investment is estimated at $11.6 billion) and a total of 2,500 British companies are based in Turkey.
UK Trade Secretary Elizabeth Truss, while commenting on the deal, said ‘[…it] provide[s] certainty for thousands of jobs across the UK in the manufacturing, automotive, and steel industries.’
While the key features of the deal are known (it seeks to prevent supply chains in automotive and manufacturing sectors, and also covers all agricultural and industrial goods), the FTA could also give a fillip to deeper defense cooperation between the UK and Turkey (in November 2020, Turkey and the UK held defence exercises for the first time).
The FTA also has geopolitical significance, because the UK is one of the few Western countries with which Turkey has a cordial relationship. While all eyes have been on the imposition of US sanctions, and its impact on the Washington-Istanbul relationship, Turkey’s ties with the EU have also witnessed a steady deterioration due to a multitude of factors in recent years. Turkey has also not been on the same page as the Western world on a number of geopolitical issues. This includes the Syria issue, as well as the dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Turkey’s military operation in Syria and reactions
Turkey’s military offensive against Kurdish forces in Northern Syria in 2019 received strong responses from EU member states and the US. While the EU was critical of the action, US policy makers had urged Donald Trump to freeze assets belonging to Turkish leaders and block the sale of arms to Istanbul. Trump had written to Erdogan to refrain from such an action, but the Turkish President paid no heed to the same. It would be pertinent to point out that after Turkey’s October 2019 invasion of Syria, Britain had stopped sales of arms, but said it would not be providing new export licences for weapons which may be used in military operations in Syria.
If one were to look at the Azerbaijan-Armenia issue, France has been vocal in supporting international supervision of the ceasefire and has also expressed apprehension that Turkey and Russia may exclude Western countries.
The EU has also been uncomfortable with Turkey’s policy in the Mediteranean. Only recently, the EU imposed sanctions against Turkish companies and individuals for oil drilling. Greece had wanted sectoral sanctions but this was resisted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, who shares a close rapport with Erdogan.
While it is believed that the main reason for the rift between Turkey and the West is the former’s growing proximity to Russia, Istanbul and Moscow too have divergences over geopolitical issues (be it Syria, Libya, or Azerbaijan). Only recently, the presence of the Turkish President at Azerbaijan’s military parade on December 10, 2020, to mark Azerbaijan’s victory over Russian ally Armenia with Turkish assistance, would not have gone down well with Moscow. Yet in public, Russia has refrained from criticizing Turkey. In an interaction with the media in December 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that sometimes Russian and Turkish interests do not ‘coincide,’ yet he also praised Turkey for pursuing an ‘independent foreign policy’ in spite of being a member of NATO and honoring its commitments.
He has also stated that Moscow needs to be ‘patient’ and adopt a more compromising stance vis-à-vis Turkey.
Erdogan does realize that he cannot afford a sudden deterioration of ties with the US, and his reconciliatory statements vis-à-vis Israel, and the Turkish decision to appoint an envoy after more than two and a half years, is being viewed as a step towards mending ties with the incoming Biden Administration.
The Britain-Turkey FTA is important not just for economics but also for geopolitical reasons. While Britain will deal with the realities of a post-Brexit world, and such FTA’s will be important in navigating the same, for Turkey the deal is important in the context of the geopolitics of the Middle East and beyond.
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Jack Curtis is the latest to submit a piece for NOL‘s “Be Our Guest” feature. A slice:
We will compare China, Russia and the United States. China is a post-communist police state that has never experienced democracy. Russia is a post-communist, quasi democratic republic devolving back into a police state. And the United States is a traditionally democratic republic. Excepting the vagaries of disparate cultures, their three governments seem increasingly similar, revising themselves to adopt the new technology. However, these revisions have not originated only within governments; they also reflect the gradual confluence of the underlying societies.
Do read the rest, and I must point out that Jack has been a long time reader of NOL. For that I am personally grateful. It’s nice to be able to link up and collaborate like this.
Submit your own thoughts to us. Be our guest. Tell your friends, too.
- What does a post-Putin Russia look like? Jakub Grygiel, American Interest
- A primer on China’s “People’s Armed Police” Joel Wuthnow, War on the Rocks
- How can people be smart consumers, but dumb voters? Chris Dillow, Stumbling & Mumbling
- The imperial myths driving Brexit Alex von Tunzelmann, the Atlantic
- The rise of millennial socialism Gavin Jacobson, New Statesman
- Class is still the defining force shaping our lives Kenan Malik, Guardian
- Are the Russians forging an ’empire’ in Africa? Maxim Matusevich, Africa is a Country
- Against conservative cultural defeatism David French, National Review
This article analyzes the changing treaty law and practice governing the Ottoman state’s attitude toward the subjects of its most important neighbor and most inveterate rival: the Russian Empire. The two empires were linked by both migration and unfreedom; alongside Russian slaves forcibly brought to the sultans’ domains, many others came as fugitives from serfdom and conscription. But beginning in the late 18th century, the Ottoman Empire reinforced Russian serfdom and conscription by agreeing to return fugitives, even as the same treaties undermined Ottoman forced labor by mandating the return of Russian slaves. Drawing extensively on Ottoman archival sources, this article argues that the resulting interimperial regulations on unfreedom and movement hardened the empires’ human and geographic boundaries, so that for many Russian subjects, foreign subjecthood under treaty law was not a privilege, but a liability.
This is from Will Smiley, a historian at the University of New Hampshire. Here is the link.
Many are familiar with the Democratic Peace Theory, the idea that two democracies have never waged war against one another. The point is widely recognized as one of the major benefits of democracy, and the hand-in-hand development of more democracies and fewer/less-devastating wars than virtually any other period of human history, is a tempting and enticing explanation.
Now, it is not overly difficult to come up with counter-examples to the Democratic Peace Theory, and indeed there’s an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to it. Here are some notable and obvious counters:
- Yugoslavian wars of the 1990s
- First Kashmir War between India and Pakistan War (1947-49)
- Various wars between Israel and its neighbors (1967, 1973, 2006 etc)
- The Football war (1969)
- Paquisha and Cenepa wars (1981, 1995)
Some people even include the First World War and various 18th and 19th century armed conflicts between major powers (American War of Independence comes to mind), but the question of when a country becomes a democracy naturally arises.
There’s another, equally enticing explanation, the main rationale underlying European Integration: The Capitalist Peace, or in a more entertaining and relatable version: The Golden Arches Theory – as advanced by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman in the mid-1990s:
No two countries that both have a McDonald’s have ever fought a war against one another.
Countries, frankly, “have too much to lose to ever go to war with one another.” As a proposition it seems reasonable, an extension of the phrase apocryphally attributed to Bastiat: “When goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will”. And not because your Big Mac meal comes with a side of peace-and-love or enhanced conflict-resolution skills, but because the introduction of McDonald’s stores represents close economic interdependence and global supply chains. After all, if your suppliers, your customers or your collegues consists of people on the other side of a potential military conflict, a war seems even less useful. Besides – paraphrasing Terry Anderson and Peter Hill in their superb The Not So Wild Wild West – trading is cheaper than raiding. Even as adamant a critic as George Monbiot admits that a fair number of McDonald’s outlets “symbolised the transition” from poor and potentially trouble-making countries, to richer and peace-loving ones.
Not unlike poor Thomas Malthus, whose convicing theory had been correct up until that point, reality rapidly decided to invalidate Friedman’s tongue-in-cheek explanation. Not long after it was published, the McDonald’s-ised nations of Pakistan and India decided to up their antics in the Kargil war, quickly undermining its near-flawless explanatory power of Friedman’s. Not one to leave all the fun to others, Russia engaged in no more than two wars in the 2000s to undermine the Golden Arches theory: the 2008 war with Georgia, and more recently the Crimean crisis. Adherring to their namesake creation, McDonald’s pull-out from Crimea was just a tad too late to vindicate Friedman.
The Capitalist Peace, the academic extension of the general truism that trading is cheaper than raiding, came undone pretty quickly thanks in part to our Russian friends. The updated version, the Dell Theory of Conflict Prevention, may unfortunately fall into the same trap as the Democratic Peace Theory: invoking ambiguous definitions that may ultimately collapse to mere than tautologies.
It’s true, and it’s the subject of my latest Tuesday column over at RealClearHistory. Check it out:
The two future superpower rivals had more in common than mere future greatness, though. Both were expanding rapidly, gobbling up huge swaths of territory at the expense of isolated polities like the Khiva Khanate and the Sioux confederacy, and hapless autocracies like Mexico and the Ottoman Empire. Russia and the United States also shared common foes – France and the U.K. – due mostly to the fact that American and Russian expansion was beginning to step on French and British toes. Both empires – one democratic, the other autocratic – also had looming labor crises that overshadowed everything they did in international affairs: slavery and serfdom.
Yes, I’m writing about the widely-ignored Crimean War. Please, read the rest, and don’t forget to tune in Friday for ten cool facts about the Crimean War!