Economic issues set to dominate Ecevit’s visit to USA next month

ANKARA (AFP) – Turkey’s crisis-hit economy, crippled by its worst recession in decades, will be the core issue at talks between Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and US officials when he visits Washington in January. Turkey’s priority in the talks with the US administration will be increasing economic cooperation, Ecevit said on Sunday. Raising trade quotas, using the USA’s special trade arrangement with the European Union and Turkey’s customs union agreement with the pan-European bloc, would figure prominently in the talks, Ecevit added. We believe Turkey should benefit from the rights enjoyed by EU-member countries within the framework of its customs union agreement with the EU. Trade quotas could be discussed as part of this issue, he said. Washington’s trade restrictions on Turkish exports were also discussed in Ankara during a visit in early December by US Secretary of State Colin Powell. At the time, Powell told reporters he would discuss with Commerce Secretary Donald Evans the possibility of removing trade barriers. Turkey has been grappling with a severe economic crisis since February when the government abandoned a pegged exchange regime to contain a grave cash crunch. The Turkish lira has lost more than 50 percent since then. In May, Turkey began implementing a tight economic recovery program in return for multibillion-dollar aid from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Last week, the IMF announced that it had agreed in principle to support Turkey’s three-year economic program with a new stand-by credit. The collaboration between Piraeus and ING takes on particular significance in view of the fact that the former has declared its intention to bid for state-controlled Agricultural Bank (ATE). ING is similarly interested in ATE which, despite its problems, has two sound insurance subsidiaries.

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