US boosts Turkish trade

ANKARA (AFP) – The United States has agreed to the establishment of qualifying industrial zones in Turkey to boost bilateral trade and is ready to cooperate with Turkey over the reconstruction of Afghanistan, senior US and Turkish officials said yesterday. A joint statement issued after two days of trade talks said the two sides had achieved «progress in laying the basis for the establishment of qualifying industrial zones (QIZs) in Turkey in accordance with the 1996 amendment to the US-Israel Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act.» The zones would enable Turkey «to export a significant range of products duty-free to the United States and increase her exports to third countries,» it said. The head of the US delegation, Under-Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Alan Larson, told a news conference that the development of the project would require «an intensive period of cooperation.» «We will need detailed consultations with our Congress, because we will need to amend some existing legislation, and we also have to consult our industry about the opportunities they see,» Larson said. Financially troubled Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Ugur Ziyal said the industrial sectors to be included in the zones, their locations and the related legal work would be worked out in the forthcoming months. The talks in Ankara was the first meeting by the US-Turkey economic partnership commission, established in January during a visit by Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit to Washington. Financially troubled Turkey, a close US ally, has long complained that the level of bilateral economic cooperation does not match the political ties linking the two countries. Larson said Washington was «very serious about making a sustained effort» to boost its economic ties with Turkey. The USA aimed at «facilitating Turkey’s recovery, promoting Turkish economic growth and helping Turkey become competitive in the global economy,» he said. He also expressed Washington’s readiness to cooperate with Ankara in reconstruction projects in Afghanistan. «We believe there are great opportunities for Turkish and American companies to work together,» he said, adding that the issue would be taken up in talks later. Along with other measures to boost bilateral trade, the USA pledged to lift tariffs on hand-woven Turkish carpets in response to long-standing Turkish requests for the easing of textile import quotas. Larson refrained from making a clear commitment on another Turkish demand – to relieve Ankara’s debt of some 5 billion dollars from loans for the purchase of US war equipment. The US official also urged Ankara to ensure effectiveness and transparency in arrangements concerning foreign investment and to resolve business disputes in order to lure substantial foreign capital. His appeal came in response to a question on whether the sides had discussed a long-running dispute between US company Motorola and Turkish mobile operator Telsim, which many say has eroded investor confidence in Turkey. Motorola, along with Finland’s Nokia, filed a 3-billion-dollar suit against Telsim last month, accusing the defendant of elaborate fraud. The economic partnership commission would hold its second meeting later this year in Washington.

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