The U.S. State Department is expected to use political issues to persuade members of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, meeting in Washington, D.C. this week to discuss political affairs and strategic partnerships, to accept a proposed economic agreement defining Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZ, which allows specific goods to be manufactured and exported to the U.S. without trade barriers), that is highly opposed by the Turkish business and industry leaders because it excludes textiles and apparel, Turkey's primary exports and the only industry capable of expansion for the U.S. market.
Republican Congressman, Cliff Stearns of Florida and Democratic Congressman, Robert Wexler of Florida, joined a contingent of Turkish business leaders at a meeting on July 22nd in Washington where they expressed their full support for a more meaningful economic agreement for Turkey and asked the U.S. Treasury Representatives (USTR) to prepare a more comprehensive proposal that would give Turkey the opportunity to pull itself out of its economic crisis. The congressmen plan to hold a second meeting in early September to review the revised proposal from the USTR.
QIZ, which was proposed by the State Department as a result of Presidents Bush's joint declaration for development of a strategic economic partnership with Turkish Prime Minister, Bulent Ecevit, during his visit to Washington last January, includes products vaguely defined as high tech to be exported to the U.S. without quotas and custom taxes but excludes textiles and apparel for which Turkey has vast resources and capabilities.
"Over 50 percent of Turkish exports to the U.S. are textiles and apparel which has reached its limit of $1.2 billion. The U.S. imports billions of dollars worth of textiles and apparel from China and Hong Kong. It's not because of Turkish imports that U.S. textile workers are losing their jobs. We're asking for a fair share because this is what we have to offer the U.S. market that will pull Turkey out of economic crisis", says Ziya Sukun, U.S. representative of ITKIB and TIM. ITKIB represents textile and apparel exporters with 14,000 corporate members, 6.4 million workers and exports of $10 billion globally. Turkish Exporters Assembly (TIM) has over 25,000 corporate members with $33 billion in global exports. Other industry organizations such as the Turkish National Union of Chambers of Commerce (TOBB) also oppose the agreement in its present form.
"It's expected that when the President of the United States declares an economic partnership program it means more than a simple QIZ project. It means lifting trade barriers and adjusting custom taxes for substantial industries that have a meaningful effect on our country's economy," adds Sukun.
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