In today’s world, countries have a tendency to engage in bilateral and regional FTAs because of World Trade Organization’s (WTO) under achievement in high level of liberalization. WTO’s regulations bind all members but sometimes more competitive conditions/better market access conditions are needed by countries and that is assured by regional/plurilateral arrangements. Because of of this tendency, there are approximately 500 FTAs which are notified to WTO.
Turkey, being a party to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1947 (GATT) and a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) since 1995, conducts Free Trade Agreements in line with Article XXIV of GATT 1947. According to this Article, any member could grant more favourable treatment to its trading partners within a customs union or a free trade area without extending such treatment to all WTO Members, subject to certain conditions.
Without prejudice to WTO provisions, the Turkey-EU Customs Union constitutes major legal basis of Turkey’s free trade agreements (FTA). Under the Customs Union, Turkey aligns its commercial policy with the EU’s Common Commercial Policy. This alignment concerns both the autonomous regimes and preferential agreements with third countries.
Article 16 of the Decision No. 1/95 of the Turkey – EC Association Council on implementing the final phase of the Customs Union provides that Turkey would, among the others, take the necessary measures and negotiate agreements on a mutually advantageous basis with the countries concerned.
Turkey, in line with the tendency in the world for negotiating FTAs and its Custom Union obligation, negotiates and concludes free trade agreements with third countries in parallel with those of the EU. Together with the EU Common Customs Tariff, the preferential trade regimes constitute the most important part of the trade policy applied towards third countries.
Changing environment in multilateral ground such as the stalemate in Doha and economic crisis, the EU decided to focus on bilateral trade agreements as a tool to boost growth with the introduction of its new trade strategy called “Global Europe” in 2006. In line with that strategy, to increase/maintain its competitiveness in the world markets, the EU started to negotiate FTAs with specific provisions on services, investment, public procurement, intellectual property rights. Turkey is preparing itself for such changing environment. Having initiated/launched negotiations parallel to those of the EU, Turkey also adapts itself to the wide range of topics covered in the Agreements and negotiates new generation FTAs with its prospective partners.
So far, Turkey has concluded FTAs with 38 countries, 11 of which were repealed due to the accession of these countries to the EU. Currently, Turkey has 22 FTAs in force; namely, EFTA, Israel, Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Palestine, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Albania, Georgia, Montenegro, Serbia, Chile, Mauritius, South Korea, Malaysia, Moldova, Faroe Islands, Singapore, Kosovo, Venezuela and United Kingdom.
The FTAs signed with Lebanon, Sudan, and Qatar are under ratification process.
Also, Turkey has been conducting negotiations to extend the scope of its existing FTAs with an aim to update and deepen their scope. To this extent, the negotiations with EFTA, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro are concluded and the negotiations with Georgia and Malaysia will be finalized in the near future.
Meanwhile, there are 17 countries/country blocs that Turkey has started FTA negotiations. Turkey has been actively engaged in negotiations with 5 of them; namely Japan, Ukraine, Indonesia, Thailand, and Somalia Turkey continues its efforts to speed up the process for our remaining ongoing FTA negotiations with Dem. Rep of Congo, Djibouti, Cameroon, Chad, Seychelles, Gulf Cooperation Council, Libya and MERCOSUR. Moreover, Turkey has launched initiatives to start negotiations with 9 countries/country blocs, which are the USA, Canada, India, Vietnam, Central American Countries, other ACP Countries, Algeria, Libya and South Africa.
 The FTA between Turkey and Jordan was repealed on 22 November 2018. The FTA between Turkey and Syria was suspended on 6 December 2011. The preferential trade treatment withnin the context of the FTA between Turkey and the United Kingdom has entered into force by 1 January 2021, and internal ratification process is ongoing.