Trade brings old rivals closer, fast

The spotlight may be on the cautious rapprochement between old-time rivals Greece and Turkey but the most impressive sign of an increasingly close relationship is to be found in trade, not high-level diplomacy. According to a study by the Center of Export Studies and Research, a think-tank sponsored by the Panhellenic Exporters’ Association, Greek exports to Turkey rose fivefold between 1990 and 2000, to $582 million. During the same period, Turkish exports to Greece increased almost threefold, to $395 million. Now Turkey is Greece’s 19th largest trade partner. The total trade figures are still not greatly impressive but they are certainly a lot better than they were in 1990. While Greek imports from Turkey have increased steadily, Greek exports have been volatile, mainly because of the economic situation in the neighboring country. Greek exports actually decreased in 1998 and 1999, as Turkey went through a recession, shot up in 2000 and decreased again last year, when the Turkish economy went through its worst post-WWII crisis and contracted 9 percent. The first half of 2002 has brought a tenuous recovery in Turkey and, with it, yet another increase in Greek exports. But in the same period, Greek imports actually declined 6 percent, the first time the trend had reversed, after increasing 24 percent through 2001. This may be a sign of a slowdown in the Greek economy. In 2000, Greece had posted a $187 million surplus in its trade with Turkey – a rare case of a surplus in its trade with another country. This has not always been the case: In 1998 and 1999, Greece had imported more than it had exported. However, an analysis of what each country exports to the other does not augur very well for Greece, as it relies too much on fuel – which accounted for 38 percent of the total value of its exports in 2000 – and raw materials (28 percent) and less on industrial products (29 percent). On the other hand, Turkey relies very heavily on industrial products (86 percent) and very little on raw materials (2 percent).

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