Starting August 1, 2010 cargo traffic will run regularly between Turkey and Pakistan via Iran, the official Iranian news agency Press TV reported, the latest sign of Turkey’s increasing economics ties with the East. 

“We will start working on developing our trade and investment relations with Iraq by putting our Iraqi Working Group into action,” Ümit Boyner, chairwoman of the Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association was quoted in Turkish media as saying, following the recent visit to Turkey of Massoud Barzani, the leader of the Kurdish region in Northern Iraq.

Boyner said the improved trade ties between Turkey and Syria is an example of what could develop between Turkey and the Kurdish region. In 2008, the two countries decided to scrap visa requirement for travel and cut tariffs, which during its first year resulted in Turkish exports to Syria rising from $1.1 billion to $1.4 billion.

“That’s the dynamic right now,” Hugh Pope, Turkey/Cyprus project director of the International Crisis Group told The Media Line regarding Turkey’s shift towards the East.

“Turkey is trying to make the Middle East more prosperous to have access to more markets, but it’s still not as easy as entering the European market,” he said.

Under the European Union all the member states function as one market; after entering one country you have access to the others, without having to go through additional bureaucracy associated with cross-border trade.      

“There has been a gradual shift in orientation of Turkey, but it’s quite opportunistic the economic ties Turkey has with the European Union,” Pope said.  

“The key is the end of the Cold War,” he said. “In the 1980s to 90s one quarter of Turkey’s trade was with the Middle East; it then fell to 10 percent 10 years ago.”

While trade to the Middle East is back on the rise again, Pope still remains skeptical.
 
“We’ll see if they will succeed,” he said.

Robert O’Daly, Senior Editor/Economist with the Economist Intelligence Unit and an expert on Turkey told The Media Line that the European Union is still Turkey’s number one trade partner. 

“Turkey is still oriented towards the European Union,” O’Daly said.

“Turkey has been developing political ties with its neighbors and trade is one part of it,” he said, adding that this is more economic than political.
   
“The economy in the European Union is not doing well at the moment with demand being weak,” O’Daly explained.

“The Middle East is doing better than the European Union market, which is expected to be sluggish and Turkey is putting a major effort into consolidating ties with markets to the East,” he said.   

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