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Turkey: Market Profile

Picture: Turkey factsheet
Picture: Turkey factsheet

1. Overview

Turkey’s performance since 2000 has been impressive, with macroeconomic and fiscal stability were at the core if its success in enabling increased employment, urbanisation and incomes and making Turkey an upper-middle-income country. Poverty incidence more than halved over 2002-15, and extreme poverty fell even faster. Turkey has also opened to foreign trade and finance, harmonised many laws and regulations with European Union (EU) standards, and greatly expanded access to public services. Although Turkey’s growth prospects are reasonably robust, with an expected 4.7% growth rate for 2018 and the medium term, it faces challenges to moving into high-income status. The influx of more than 3 million Syrian refugees in 2016-17 created new social, economic, and political demands, particularly in urban centres where most refugees have settled. Domestic challenges and a deteriorating geopolitical environment have negatively impacted exports, investment, and growth. New momentum is needed to improve the quality of education and boost productivity through greater innovation in the long run.

Source: World Bank

2. Major Economic Indicators

Graph: Turkey real GDP and inflation
Graph: Turkey real GDP and inflation
Graph: Turkey GDP by sector (2016)
Graph: Turkey GDP by sector (2016)
Graph: Turkey unemployment rate
Graph: Turkey unemployment rate
Graph: Turkey current account balance
Graph: Turkey current account balance

Note: e = estimate, f = forecast
Sources: IMF, World Bank

3. External Trade

3.1 Merchandise Trade

Graph: Turkey merchandise trade
Graph: Turkey merchandise trade
Graph: Turkey major export commodities (2016)
Graph: Turkey major export commodities (2016)
Graph: Turkey major export markets (2016)
Graph: Turkey major export markets (2016)
Graph: Turkey major import commodities (2016)
Graph: Turkey major import commodities (2016)
Graph: Turkey major import markets (2016)
Graph: Turkey major import markets (2016)

Sources: WTO, World Bank WITS database

3.2 Trade in Services

Graph: Turkey trade in services
Graph: Turkey trade in services

4. Trade Policies

  • Turkey has significantly liberalised its import regime, especially in the last decade. Any individual or enterprise can freely register to engage in the import business. It is a member of the WTO, and its tariff scheme is based on the Harmonised System (HS) for commodity coding.
  • The EU-Turkey Customs Union came into force in January 1996, under which Turkey and the EU have abolished all customs duties, other surcharges and import quotas levied on most manufactured products from each other. Turkey has also adopted the EU’s Common External Tariffs imposed on imports from third countries and economies. Products imported from sources other than the EU and Turkey can thus move freely within the EU and Turkey, if all import formalities have been complied with and customs duties, or charges having an equivalent effect, have been levied in the importing country.
  • Nonetheless, additional customs duties (ACD) have recently been imposed on a number of products, such as certain furniture, lamps, vacuum cleaners and electro-mechanical domestic appliances originated from most countries, including China. On the other hand, some industrial products from the least developed and developing countries (including the Chinese mainland) benefit from the EU’s Generalised System of Preferences (GSP). With the creation of the Customs Union between the EU and Turkey, such products are also covered under Turkey’s GSP regime.
  • Trade-protection measures such as anti-dumping (AD), however, have not been eliminated between the EU and Turkey. Such protective measures have likewise not been eliminated with respect to dumped and subsidised products from third countries. In other words, Turkey has its own anti-dumping actions, which are separate from those of the EU. As it now stands, for example, a definitive AD duty of USD0.91 per kg is currently imposed on Hong Kong-origin tempered glass lids.
  • The Turkish Standards Institution, or TSE, is the product standardisation body of Turkey, responsible for setting product standards and ensuring compliance. Taking electrical and electronic products as an example, while there is a minimum two-year warranty requirement, it is also necessary to obtain technical approval by TSE, and attain the European CE standard certification under the requirements set out by TSE, before the products can be imported and placed onto the Turkish market. As for toys, TSE also imposes a number of safety standards, which in large follow those required by the EU. Therefore, the attainment of CE standards certification can serve as a good reference for fulfilling the TSE requirements.
  • Trade flows in Turkey have been facilitated by the removal of trade barriers and lowering of tariffs alongside membership of a number of FTAs. Turkey has established highly beneficial FTAs with some key trade partners, including a customs agreement with the EU whereby its trade tariffs and duties are aligned with the EU's common external tariff and no customs duties are paid on goods traded with the bloc. This agreement helps to ensure access to the EU's huge market for Turkish goods, and reduces the costs of imports from key partners such as Germany and Italy. The country has also signed numerous other FTAs, while others are in the pipeline, including a potential deal with Russia which has been mooted following an improvement in diplomatic relations between the two countries in H216.
  • The large number of FTAs signed by Turkey has significantly reduced the average tariff rate faced by importers, which now stands at 2.8%, above the average in EU member states (1.5%) but among the lowest on a global comparison. Nevertheless, companies importing from countries outside of Turkey's FTAs face tariffs which are potentially much higher, as Turkey has not set final bound tariffs for a large number of product categories, and there are often significant differences between most favoured nation (MFN) applied tariff rates and final bound tariff rates. This means that Turkey has considerable leeway to increase tariffs in order to protect certain sectors from competition, increasing costs for importers and distorting the playing field. The higher tariff rates normally apply to agricultural products rather than industrial goods, but this nonetheless constitutes a trade barrier for some firms. Technical and customs barriers on imports also remain in some sectors, though this mainly affects exporters to Turkey rather than businesses based within the country.
  • To harmonise with the relevant EU directives, the Turkish version of the RoHS directive entered into force in June 2009, while the Turkish version of the WEEE directive was published in the Turkish Official Journal on 22 May 2012 and implemented starting from January 2013 onwards.

Source: WTO

5. Trade Agreement

5.1 Trade Updates

Trade flows in Turkey have been facilitated by the removal of trade barriers and lowering of tariffs alongside membership of a number of FTAs. Turkey has established highly beneficial FTAs with some key trade partners, including a customs agreement with the EU whereby its trade tariffs and duties are aligned with the EU's common external tariff and no customs duties are paid on goods traded with the bloc. This agreement helps to ensure access to the EU's huge market for Turkish goods, and reduces the costs of imports from key partners such as Germany and Italy. The country has also signed numerous other FTAs, while others are in the pipeline, including a potential deal with Russia which has been mooted following an improvement in diplomatic relations between the two countries in H216.

5.2 Multinational Trade Agreements


  1. EU – The customs union with the EU provides tariff-free access to the European market, benefiting both exporters and importers; many of Turkey's major trade partners are EU states.

    Turkey also enjoys tariff-free access to the states with which the EU has concluded FTAs, including Mexico, South Africa, Ukraine and Morocco.

  2. European Free Trade Area (EFTA) comprising Iceland, Switzerland, Norway, and Lichtenstein – Switzerland is a large source of imports and assists with regional trade flows to Europe.

  3. Israel and Turkey have an FTA. Israel is an important trade partner in the Middle East and there is potential for expansion of trade flows.

  4. Egypt has an FTA with Turkey – Egypt is a relatively large export market, particularly for refined fuel.

  5. Other states with active FTAs: Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Tunisia, Morocco, Albania, Georgia, Montenegro, Serbia, Chile, Jordan, and Mauritius – These countries are not major trade partners of Turkey and therefore FTAs offer few benefits.

  6. Turkey-South Korea have an FTA – South Korea is in key source of complex manufactured goods.

Under Negotiation

  1. Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the US – Turkey was intended to be included in the TTIP through its customs union with the EU, creating a host of opportunities for Turkish firms in the world's largest economy. However, the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency has made the finalisation of this agreement unlikely in the medium term due to his 'America First' policy and reluctance to conclude FTAs.

  2. Mercosur – Trade with Latin America is limited and unlikely to expand significantly under FTAs.

Signed But Not Ratified

Lebanon, Kosovo, Moldova, Malaysia, and Faroe Islands – Trade flows with these countries are not substantial and they offer relatively limited markets – though Malaysia offers an alternative source of energy.

Negotiation Suspended

GCC – Though negotiations have been suspended, tariff-free access to the GCC would reduce costs on energy imports.

Sources: BMI, WTO

6. Investment Policy

6.1 Foreign Direct Investment

Graph: Turkey FDI stock
Graph: Turkey FDI stock
Graph: Turkey FDI flow
Graph: Turkey FDI flow

6.2 Foreign Direct Investment Policy

  1. To encourage investments with the potential to reduce dependency on the importation of intermediate goods vital to the country’s strategic sectors such as agriculture and food, automotive, business services, chemicals, electronics, energy and renewables, financial services, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, ICT, infrastructure, machinery, manufacturing, mining , real estate, tourism and transportation and logistics, the Turkish government has put in place investment incentives including VAT/customs duty exemption and social security premium support.

  2. Effective as of 1 January 2012, local and foreign investors have equal access to the new investment incentives system comprised of four different schemes, namely General Investment Incentives Scheme, Regional Investment Incentives Scheme, Large-Scale Investment Incentives Scheme and Strategic Investment Incentives Scheme. More information on the investment environment and the relevant regulations can be found at the Investment Support and Promotion Agency of Turkey (ISPAT).

  3. Since 2001, Turkey has pursued a comprehensive investment climate reform programme aimed at streamlining investment-related procedures and attracting more FDI. The government has launched the Coordination Council for the Improvement of the Investment Environment (YOIKK), which involves stakeholders from the public and private sectors, to advise on current investment policies. A supplementary role is played by the Investment Advisory Council of Turkey, which convenes yearly under the chairmanship of the prime minister and involves representatives from multinational companies, international institutions and non-governmental organisations. The recommendations supplied by this council are applied as guidelines for the YOIKK agenda.

  4. The Privatisation Administration has been used to divest state assets in a wide range of industries, with 178 out of 188 former state-owned entities (SOEs) now boasting some level of private sector participation. Another government programme of more direct relevance is the Investment Support and Promotion Agency, which offers information and advice to foreign investors as well as support in setting up operations. All of these initiatives have been successful in improving the investment environment and increasing foreign participation in Turkey's economy.

  5. Of greater interest to prospective investors, however, is the generous and wide-ranging incentive programme and suite of free zones which offer numerous fiscal benefits, funding support and logistical advantages to new projects. The current incentive system was established in 2012 and updated in 2015, and aims to encourage investment in strategic sectors, high value-add industries and underdeveloped regions. The programme is therefore divided into five different schemes which offer a varying range of benefits depending on the sector, location and amount of investment: the General Investment Incentive Scheme, the Regional Investment Incentive Scheme, the Large Scale Investment Scheme, the Priority Investment Incentive Scheme, and the Strategic Investment Incentive Scheme.

  6. In addition, Turkey also has 19 operational 'free zones' that are located close to the EU and Middle Eastern markets with access to international trade routes. The advantages offered have resulted in the accumulation of sophisticated industrial clusters which offer immediate access to quality local suppliers and international trade routes, significantly reducing supply chain risks and logistics costs.

  7. Public procurement preference – A number of provisions may be applied to government tenders which are detrimental to foreign investors, including restrictions on bids by foreign companies, the potential to offer price advantages of up to 15% for domestic bidders, a requirement to accept only lowest-cost bids, and the use of model contracts which leave little room for flexibility and specialisation.

  8. Foreign ownership restrictions – There are few remaining regulatory restrictions on foreign investment, though equity participation is generally restricted to 50% in broadcasting and 49% in port operation and the aviation and maritime transportation sectors.

  9. A number of provisions may be applied to government tenders which are detrimental to foreign investors, including restrictions on bids by foreign companies, the potential to offer price advantages of up to 15% for domestic bidders, a requirement to accept only lowest-cost bids, and the use of model contracts which leave little room for flexibility and specialisation.

6.3 Free Trade Zones and Investment Incentives

Free Trade Zone/Incentive ProgrammeMain Incentives Available
General Investment Incentive Scheme: available regardless of location and investment amount and also applied to all other investment incentive programmes.Exemption from VAT and customs duty
Regional Investment Incentive Scheme: offers a range of benefits depending on the development level of the region in which the project is located. All regions of Turkey are allocated a number from one to six, whereby one represents the most developed and offers the fewest incentives. The minimum investment amount is TRY1 million for zones one and two, and TRY500,000 for the remaining four zones.– Automatic government land allocation
– Subsidised interest payments on loans
– Income tax reductions ranging from 15-55%
– Subsidies on employer social security contributions covering between 10-100% of the cost for 2-12 years
– The level of incentives offered increases from zones one to six and is also higher if the business is located in an Organised Industrial Zone
Large Scale Investment Incentive Scheme: available to investments in fuel refining (minimum investment TRY1 billion), chemical products, harbour services, automotive manufacturing (min. investment TRY200 million), automotive supply industries, railway trains and cars, pipelines, electronics, medical devices, aircraft, machinery, pharmaceuticals, metals production (min. investment TRY50 million).All incentives listed above, but more generous tax deductions of between 25-65% and social security exemption for 2-12 years
Strategic Investment Incentive Scheme: offers the most generous benefits and is reserved for businesses establishing production facilities for goods which Turkey is currently a net importer. Minimum investment TRY50 million.Tax deduction of 50% is available for all regions and social security contributions are subsidised for at least seven years
Free Zones: 19 located throughout the country, mostly along the coastline and close to strategic ports such as Istanbul, Izmir and Mersin.
– Exemption from VAT, customs duty and stamp duty
– Exemption from corporate income tax for manufacturing companies
– Exemption from income tax on employees' salaries for companies that export at least 85% of the 'freight on board' value of the goods they produce in the free zones
Priority Investment Incentive Scheme: focused on specific sectors including high-tech manufacturing, defence industry, automotives, mining, education, LNG, power generation, rail and maritime transport.– All incentives allocated to firms located in zone 5 regions are available to these industries regardless of location
– This includes income tax deductions of up to 50% and social security support for up to 10 years

7. Taxation – 2017

  • Value Added Tax: 18%
  • Corporate Income Tax: 20%

Source: PwC

7.1 Important Updates to Taxation Information

The Turkish government announced a series of measures aimed at increasing tax revenues in September 2017, which have been applied as of 2018. One of the key measures includes raising the rate of corporate income tax from 20% to 22% for the fiscal years beginning in 2018, 2019 and 2020, though ministers will retain the power to reduce it back to 20% during this time. Although the corporate income tax rate remains competitive on a global scale, this increase will nonetheless weigh on the profit margins of businesses over coming years.

Another tax hike that will affect passenger car sales in 2018 is an increase in Motor Vehicle Tax – a registration tax paid twice a year – which comes into effect in January 2018. This tax is currently set to be levied only on passenger cars and commercial vehicles. Although a public outcry has seen this tax cut from a proposed level of 40% to a new band of 15%-25%, it still represents a significant extra cost for Turkish motorists and will likely lead to a further slowdown in sales over 2018 in particular, as consumers get to grips with this new levy. The government also previously announced that the new Motor Vehicle Tax will be calculated based on both the engine size of the vehicle and its value, whereas previously this tax was only calculated on the engine size.

7.2 Business Taxes

Type of TaxTax Rate and Base
Corporate Income Tax
20% on profits of resident and non-resident companies, rising to 22% for fiscal years 2018, 2019, 2020
Value Added Tax18% on sale of goods and services (standard rate)
Branch Remittance Tax
15% on profits of non-resident companies repatriated to headquarters
Financial Transactions Tax
5% on transactions completed by banks and insurance companies (standard rate)
Social security contributions
22.5% on gross salaries
Witholding Taxes– 15% on dividends paid to non-residents
– Varying rates up to 18% on interest
– 20% on royalties
– 5% on professional fees for petroleum activities
– 5% on professional fees for other activities
– 20% on real estate rental payments

Sources: PwC, BMI

8. Foreign Worker Requirements

8.1 Localisation Requirements

Since January 2015, employers seeking to recruit foreign nationals must meet a number of stipulations which increase the obstacles to importing foreign workers.

Businesses must meet the following criteria in order to be eligible to employ foreign workers: a local employment quota of five local employees per foreign national; one of either a minimum amount of paid-in capital of TRY100,000, gross sales of TRY800,000, or exports to the value of USD250,000; and minimum monthly salary levels ranging between 1.5 and 6.5 times the minimum wage for the foreign worker, depending on their position.

8.2 Obtaining Foreign Worker Permits for Skilled Workers

For a foreign national to work in Turkey, an employment visa and a work permit (which also serves as a residency permit) must be acquired. This entails: an application for a work permit to the Turkish Embassy in the home country of the expatriate; an application to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security in Ankara within 10 days after the date of filing of the application with the Turkish Embassy; and an application for an employment visa within 90 days after obtaining the work permit from the Ministry.

Work permits are granted for an initial period of one year and are renewable first for up to three years and following this for up to six years. However, the employee must stay with the designated employer during this period, meaning that long-term expatriate workers, who will be in high demand due to their skills and experience of working in Turkey, will not be available for recruitment by other businesses, restricting recruitment options for businesses.

Due to the fact that professional services such as engineering, city planning and architecture are carefully regulated in Turkey, work permit applications for foreign nationals holding one of these degrees differ from the regular work permit applications and can take up to a year.

8.3 Visa/Travel Restrictions

Visitors from many European, Middle Eastern and South American countries may visit Turkey visa-free for up to 90 days. Visitors from other countries (including the US, China and the UK) may obtain visas for tourism or business purposes via the Electronic Visa Application System. This system, which was launched in 2013, allows visitors from some countries to obtain an e-Visa online, which streamlines the process for foreign business travellers needing to visit Turkey. E-visas cost between USD15-80 depending on the country of origin, while visas obtained on arrival cost between USD25-70 but are generally more expensive.

8.4 Refugee Employment Restrictions

Though Syrian refugees are permitted to apply for work permits to join the formal labour market, this scheme is not well publicised and has seen limited success.Businesses are reluctant to formally employ Syrian refugees as this requires sponsorship and payment of the minimum wage, raising bureaucratic and employment costs. Compliance issues and supply chain risks for businesses employing refugees will therefore remain pertinent going forwards.

Sources: Government websites, BMI

9. Risks

9.1 Sovereign Credit Ratings

Rating (Outlook)Rating Date
Standard & Poor's BB 01/05/2018
Fitch BB+ 19/01/2018

Sources: Moody's, Standard & Poor's, Fitch Ratings

9.2 Competitiveness and Efficiency Indicators

World Ranking
Ease of Doing Business Index
Ease of Paying Taxes Index
Logistics Performance Index
Corruption Perception Index
IMD World Competitiveness38/6347/63N/A

Sources: World Bank, IMD, Transparency International

9.3 BMI Risk Indices

World ranking
Economic Risk Index Rank63/202
Short-Term Economic Risk Score46
Long-Term Economic Risk Score 56.3 60.6 61.2
Political Risk Index Rank82/202
Short-Term Political Risk Score 60.2 57.1 57.1
Long-Term Political Risk Score 58.4 57.3 56.3
Operational Risk Index Rank80/201
Operational Risk Score 55.9 54.253.4

Source: BMI Research

9.4 BMI Risk Summary

Turkey's need to reduce its reliance on foreign capital, narrow external deficits and rebalance away from private consumption towards more domestic saving and investment will necessitate a period of slower trend growth. Although the government and central bank have clearly demonstrated an aversion to allowing rebalancing to play out through lower GDP growth rates in the medium term, we believe this is simply delaying the inevitable. Risks of a sharp slowdown in headline growth remains high if there was to be a deterioration in the global macroeconomic outlook for emerging markets, which would see investor confidence suffer and capital inflows dry up. As it stands, we forecast real GDP growth to be significantly slower over the coming years.

Turkey's once promising operating environment is being slowly undermined, reducing its appeal as an investment destination. Policies pursued by the government under the direction of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have increased political polarisation, sparked social unrest, catalysed a coup attempt in July 2016, led to crackdowns on media freedoms, undermined the independence of the judiciary and caused a return to conflict with Kurdish separatists. The civil war in neighbouring Syria has exerted a considerable influence over Turkish policymaking and gradually dragged the country into greater involvement, leading to an uptick in terrorist attacks, a huge influx of refugees and fractious relations with international powers also involved in the conflict. Though Turkey continues to offer considerable investment potential, particularly due to its large labour force and open trade policies, investor sentiment towards the country will remain dampened over the medium term.

Graph: Turkey short term political risk index
Graph: Turkey short term political risk index
Graph: Turkey long term political risk index
Graph: Turkey long term political risk index
Graph: Turkey short term economic risk index
Graph: Turkey short term economic risk index
Graph: Turkey long term economic risk index
Graph: Turkey long term economic risk index

9.5 BMI Operational Risk Index

Operational RiskLabour Market RiskLogistics RiskTrade and Investment RiskCrime and Security Risk
Turkey Score 53.452.0
61.9 55.843.7
Southeast Europe Average 57.3 52.858.357.9 60.1
Southeast Europe Position (out of 12) 9 839 11
Emerging Europe Average 56.6 54.1 57.458.4 56.7
Emerging Europe Position (out of 31) 22 2211 22 24
Global Average 49.8 49.849.350.0 49.9
Global Position (out of 201) 80 875078 116

Note: 100 = Lowest risk, 0 = Highest risk
Source: BMI Operational Risk Index

Graph: Turkey vs global and regional averages
Graph: Turkey vs global and regional averages
Operational Risk Index
Labour Market Risk Index
Logistics Risk IndexTrade and Investment Risk IndexCrime and Secruity Risk Index
Croatia 63.351.9
 55.4 77.5
Romania 62.2 57.1 60.7 62.1 69.0
Cyprus 61.5 55.1 58.3 61.7 70.7
 60.4 55.5 60.6 63.6 61.8
Macedonia 57.4 47.2 57.2 68.3 57.1
 56.9 52.8 56.5 58.8 59.4
Serbia 55.8 58.5 53.9 59.4 51.6
 53.4 52.0 61.9 55.8 43.7
Kosovo 52.2 55.2 55.6 57.6 40.5
Albania 51.1 49.0 49.8 47.6 58.1
Bosnia 45.9 45.5 46.1 44.3 47.8
Regional Averages 57.3 52.8 58.3 57.9 60.1
Emerging Markets Averages 46.8 48.0 45.8 47.5 46.1
Global Markets Averages 49.8 49.8 49.350.0

Note: Higher score = Lower risk
Source: BMI Operational Risk Index

10. Hong Kong Connection

10.1 Hong Kong’s Trade with Turkey

Growth rate
Number of Turkish residents visiting Hong Kong28,703
Number of Turkish residents in Hong KongN/A

Sources: Hong Kong Tourism Board, Hong Kong Immigration Department

10.2 Commercial Presence in Hong Kong

Growth rate
Number of Turkish companies in Hong Kong N/A
- Regional headquarters
- Regional offices
- Local offices

10.3 Chamber of Commerce (or Related Organisations) in Hong Kong

Turkish Consulate General in Hong Kong
Address: Room 301, 3rd floor, Sino Plaza, 255-257 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Email: consulate.hongkong@mfa.gov.tr
Hours of Business: 9:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Consul General: Korhan Kemik
Tel: (852) 2572 1331
Fax: (852) 2893 1771

Source: www.embassypages.com

10.4 Visa Requirements for Hong Kong Residents

HKSAR Passport Holder: Visa-free for up to 90 days (visits for tourism / conference / business meeting purposes only)

Source: Visa on Demand

Content provided by Picture: BMI Research