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Turkey Criticised for Breaching Trade Principles, Imposing Unwarranted Tariffs on Footwear, Other Consumer Goods

Hong Kong traders with export interests in Turkey may like to know that the EU published its eighteenth Progress Report on Turkey. The Report assesses Turkey’s progress in complying with the EU’s accession criteria, with a particular focus on compliance with the EU’s body of legislation. The progress reports are not binding on Turkey as such; however, they provide an overview of the important issues which need to be addressed by Turkey within the framework of its accession negotiations to become an EU Member State.

In this respect, the 2015 Progress Report would likely attract the attention of Hong Kong traders since it evaluates Turkey’s recent practices concerning the additional import duties and other measures being imposed on consumer goods.

Turkey was granted the status of candidate country for EU membership in 1999, and the accession negotiations were opened in 2005. In order to become a Member State of the EU, Turkey has to comply with the EU’s political and economic criteria, and align its legislation with that of the EU’s in order to assume the obligations of membership. The latest Report focuses particularly on Turkey’s ability to assume the obligations of membership, and analyses the extent to which Turkish legislation is aligned with the EU’s legislation.

The assessment concerning the alignment of legislation is conducted based on chapters, which cover specific areas such as free movement of goods, environment and climate change, and health and consumer protection. Within the framework of Turkey’s accession negotiations, fourteen chapters (out of a total number of thirty-three) have been opened so far and one of these (Science and Research) was provisionally closed.

The EU’s latest Report appreciates Turkey’s good preparation in its chapter on the free movement of goods, notably the alignment of its ecodesign requirements and medical devices legislation. Turkey’s efforts in improving market surveillance for certain goods have also been noted, such as amendments made in order to introduce or improve market surveillance of radio telecommunication terminal equipment, fertilisers, and waste batteries and accumulators.

The Report notes that market surveillance has yet to be implemented effectively and that this could be done by expanding the scope of surveillance, and by developing awareness-raising on product safety.

Furthermore, it is stated that Turkey has adopted 18,981 standards set by the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) and the European Committee for Electro-technical Standardisation (CENELEC), and 427 standards set by the European Telecommunication Standards Institute. Turkey’s overall rate of harmonisation with European standards is reported to stand at 97%.

On the other hand, the EU directs substantial criticism against Turkey’s actions in violation of the Customs Union with respect to the import of goods. These are likely to be of particular interest to Hong Kong traders. The EU states that additional tests and conformity assessment checks are being carried out at the border for imported goods such as toys and shoes. Such practices are against the established product safety legislation and the rules of the Customs Union.

Other criticisms stemming from the Report concerning the free movement of goods are as follows:

  • Unnecessary registration requirements for importing textiles, footwear, and clothing,
  • Unnecessary restrictions on exports of leather, paper and copper scrap, aluminium, and chrome,
  • Unnecessary prior approval and licensing of textiles, chemicals and foodstuffs, and
  • Existence of technical barriers to trade in textiles, second-hand goods and beverages.

Hong Kong traders may recall that Turkey had imposed additional customs duties on certain textile goods and footwear, and introduced new duties on imports of a wide range of goods such as carpets, rugs, hand tools, household appliances, lamps and furniture. As these measures also apply to goods which originate in third countries and enter into free circulation in an EU Member State, this is considered as a violation of the EU-Turkey Customs Union. This is because the Customs Union Agreement stipulates that the goods shall freely circulate within the customs union territory regardless of the Member State of entrance.

Based on the aforementioned shortcomings in Turkey’s progress, the EU recommends the following guidance measures:

  • improvement of the free movement of goods by abolishing prior approval and licensing;
  • removal of import and export restrictions preventing the effective free movement of goods; and
  • adoption of simplified procedures to facilitate legitimate trade, while ensuring security and safety.

With respect to environment and climate change, the Report states that Turkey has made moderate progress. Turkey amended its environmental legislation; however, the enforcement of the legislation is considered to remain weak, especially on waste management and industrial pollution. Lastly, the EU underlines that the adoption of a new Consumer Product Safety Regulation, which was to achieve full alignment with the EU’s General Product Safety Directive, is still pending.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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