ECONOMY

Turkish-Iranian trade

ANKARA (AFP) – Turkey complained yesterday of a widening imbalance in its trade with Iran, urging its eastern neighbor to cut tariffs on industrial goods. Foreign Trade Minister Kursad Tuzmen told a meeting in Ankara of a Turkish-Iranian economic committee co-chaired by Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki that the volume of bilateral trade had increased by 52 percent in 2006 to $6.7 billion (-5.1 billion). But Turkish exports to Iran amounted only to $1.1 billion (-836 million), he said, and called for measures to balance the trade because the «current trend is not sustainable.» Tuzmen blamed the disparity mainly on Iran’s policy of imposing high tariffs on Turkish industrial goods, ranging from 40 to 100 percent for some items, while the average level of Turkish tariffs was less than 4 percent. «Trade with Iran is very important for us,» he said. «What we expect you to do is to pull down tariffs on industrial goods to 4 percent.» Mottaki said Iran was committed to improving economic cooperation with Turkey and pledged efforts to resolve bilateral problems. «There is no issue between Turkey and Iran that cannot be resolved,» he said. «We are determined to improve and expand our relations.» He said he hoped bilateral trade volume would reach $10 billion this year. The bulk of Iranian sales to Turkey is in the form of oil and natural gas, carried via a pipeline linking the two countries. Mottaki was scheduled to discuss political issues with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul later yesterday, and meet President Ahmet Necdet Sezer in Istanbul today. Turkey and Iran have notably improved ties over the past several years after an icy period marked by Turkish accusations that Iran was sheltering Turkish Kurd separatists and aiding Islamist extremists. Ankara has noted Tehran’s enhanced cooperation in combating Kurdish rebels, who are also active in Iran, and Gul said earlier this month that bilateral tensions over accusations that Iran is seeking to undermine Turkey’s secular system is «a thing of the past.» The turmoil in Iraq, which neighbors both countries, has also brought them closer, and Ankara has lobbied Tehran to resolve peacefully its row with the West over its nuclear program.