Reinvigorating EU-Turkey bilateral trade: Upgrading the customs union

Briefing 03-03-2017

The EU-Turkey customs union (CU), established more than two decades ago, together with a set of preferential trade agreements, has brought many benefits to both sides, enhancing trade and economic integration. However, this bilateral preferential trade framework (BPTF) has to be aligned to both the changing global trade environment and current EU trade policy, which prioritises the conclusion of bilateral agreements with more comprehensive coverage. After exploratory discussions, both sides reached a consensus, at the EU-Turkey high level meeting of May 2015, to start preparations for future talks to update the EU-Turkey BPTF. In December 2016, the Commission asked the Council for authorisation to launch talks to modernise the CU. The EU’s main objective is to enhance the BPTF by widening the scope of trade preferences and modernising the functioning of the CU, within a comprehensive negotiation process. As a result of the implementation of the CU, Turkey’s alignment with the EU acquis and EU-Turkey trade integration already began before the launch of accession negotiations. The bilateral trade framework will be upgraded in parallel, in complementarity with the accession negotiations.