Arab world turns against Turkish exports

 Unofficial Boycott for Turkish Imports

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Turkish exporters, trying to overcome the unofficial boycotts of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE), now began to experience problems in exports to North Africa.

According to the data of Turkey exporters Assembly (TIM), exports to Morocco was $2.24 billion dollars last year, while to Algeria was $1.86 billion. While companies in the ready to wear garments and apparel industry have had problems in the past, exporting to North African countries, especially Morocco, exporters now complain about waiting times in the Moroccan customs, which can reach five times the normal, especially in last month.

Last Thursday Morocco slapped  extraordinary customs duties of up to 90 percent, for products imported from Turkey in 1,200 different export items. According to the information provided by a source from the Morocco Ministry of Commerce, tax surcharges, including textile and ready to wear garments, will be valid for five years.

Turkey’s Clothing Manufacturers’ Association President Hadi Karasu, evaluated Morocco’s taxation decision as follows; “Because of the pandemic, European countries are expected to bring their supply chains closer to home. There is renewed interest in nearby  low labor cost countries such as Algeria, Turkey, Morocco and Tunisia. European brands want to shift their outsourcing from China to Turkey and North African countries.

Turkey’s competitors have sensed this shift and they piling on  non-tariff barriers in order to keep Turkey out of the game. We know that they have created non-tariff barriers against Turkish brands and manufacturers, especially in the last few months. Mediterranean countries are not willing to allow  Turkey to appear on the EU radar of brands that are able to supply products from Mediterranean region. Morocco’s imposition of this additional tax on 1200 products is the result of that approach.”

Karasu stated, Morocco aims to turn the trade deficit  that is in favor of Turkey by increase its customs taxation.

Relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia were strained further after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Kaşıkçı two years ago.

President of the Saudi Chambers of Commerce, called for a boycott of Turkish products last week.

Eight umbrella organizations of business world, including TOBB, TUSIAD and TIM, made the following statements at the weekend: “It has been reported  that  a letter of commitment is demanded of   Saudi companies that procure goods from our companies, to  slash import from Turkey. Furthermore, global logistics firms warn their Saudi customers about the prolonged waiting times at Saudi customs for goods coming from Turkey as well as Turkey imports can even be banned.

Şeref Hayat, Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) President of Apparel and Clothing Assembly, made the following comments about the “unofficial boycott”:

“There is a new wave of  non-tariff imposition by North African countries. There are not any official documents signed however. But we hear some complaints from our exporter members like Laleli and Osmanbey which send goods to North Africa region, regarding imposition of customs obstacles to goods, as well as other administrative measures. Lately there has been many problems on our exports because of that. Therefore, we have decided to provide some information to the Ministry of Trade.”


Giyaseddin Eyyüpkoca, President of Laleli Industrialists and Business People Association (LASIAD) stated that they have problems in exporting to countries of the region and that there was a serious increase in waiting times in customs, and pointed out that political developments in the region also affected trade.

President of LASIAD stated, “Unfortunately the situation in the Middle East is very complicated right now. Every country has a political stance or side. Especially Saudi Arabia and UAE is on one side and we are on the other (concerning Turkey’s involvement in Libya and Syria). Some Middle Eastern countries put their guard up for them and others for us. Officially, both countries cannot prevent trade in a documented manner, as per WTO rules. Therefore, measures like inspections and  slowing down the customs process  are implemented. These tactics are being used a lot, especially in Morocco, in Algeria and lesser measures in Tunisia as well.”

Stating that the situation in North Africa has escalated a little more in the last month and a half, Eyyüpkoca added, “Morocco has always been tough on  Turkey. It imposes high tariffs, especially at the point of customs duties, in order to support production internally. But the fact that Morocco is in an allegiance with Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt has made its attitude tougher towards us, compared to the past. We are being informed by our companies about week-long or 15 day delays. We have reached a point where there is an act of slowing down customs and aggravation in North African region. There is still an inflow of goods, however it is getting tougher day by day. Goods that used to be sent in two days are now can be sent in 12 days instead, and goods that took 5 days to send now takes 15 days.”


Translation: Cem Cetinguc



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Published By: Atilla Yeşilada

GlobalSource Partners’ Turkey Country Analyst Atilla Yesilada is the country’s leading political analyst and commentator. He is known throughout the finance and political science world for his thorough and outspoken coverage of Turkey’s political and financial developments. In addition to his extensive writing schedule, he is often called upon to provide his political expertise on major radio and television channels. Based in Istanbul, Atilla is co-founder of the information platform Istanbul Analytics and is one of GlobalSource’s local partners in Turkey. In addition to his consulting work and speaking engagements throughout the US, Europe and the Middle East, he writes regular columns for Turkey’s leading financial websites VATAN and and has contributed to the financial daily Referans and the liberal daily Radikal.