Russia curbs trade, trucks wait at border

Türkiye Materials 28 August 2008 13:26 (UTC +04:00)

Turkey has protested to Russia over trade restrictions after trucks were held up at customs, hurting exports to Turkey's biggest trading partner. Russia's implementation, which is still active despite a statement that it would end on August 16, leaves exports facing the risk of losing the market, reported TDN.

Russian customs inspections, which previously took a few hours, are delaying the entry of Turkish trucks for as long as 20 days, an official at Turkey's Trade Ministry said on condition of anonymity, reported Bloomberg. The ministry estimates Turkey could lose as much as $3 billion in exports if the curbs continue, and has sought an explanation from the Russian government, he said.

An official at Russia's Federal Customs Service in Moscow said he was not aware of measures against Turkish imports.

Russia last year was the largest market outside the European Union for Turkish goods, with $4.9 billion worth of exports, according to the Turkish Assembly of Exporters. Turkey sells textiles and food to Russia, and relies on imports of Russian natural gas for heating and electricity.

Turkish trucks shipped to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk have been subjected to extensive checks and searches for the past month, said Ahmet Çalıkoğlu, a commercial attaché at the Turkish consulate-general there.

About 100 Turkish trucks are currently held up at the port, and imports from other countries are not being subjected to the same scrutiny, he said.

Turkey's Trade Ministry said it was not aware of any reason for the intensified checks. Two incidents of narcotics trading involving Turkish trucks may have been the cause, Çalıkoğlu said.

The restrictions are especially damaging for Turkish textile exporters who are currently selling their winter collections, Trade Minister Kürşad Tüzmen said Tuesday.

Exporters, who are facing the risk of losing the market due to delayed orders, are also obliged to pay a waiting bill, as much as 1,000 euros per truck per day, business daily Referans reported. Textile, chemical and logistics sectors are the top sectors that are being influenced by the situation. The most important reason for the intense controls is said to be the increasing controls of Russia on tax in an attempt to reduce unregistered foreign trade.

The clothing sector is unable to launch its new season as it has been unable to bring products into Russia, while the chemical sector's exports losses total $20 million.

Next to the hot war between Russia and Georgia, we are experiencing an economic war, says business world. It is said that there are over 300 trucks waiting at the Russian customs, according to Referans.

Russian consumers are flooding to Chinese goods, said Oktay Özdemir, chief executive officer of Wenice Kids, which has been unable to transfer products to its 28 stores in Russia for the last month and a half. The products waiting at the customs at present total 2.5 million euros, said Özdemir.

Our franchises have started to purchase goods of Far Eastern and Italian origin. It is as if Russia is trying to exclude Turkish products, said Özdemir. China has started production in Russia. China Towers are being formed. We are trying options such as Serbia and Ukraine to prevent losses, he said.

This is an economic war, said Ahmet Sait Kavurmacı, vice chairman of Aydınlı Group, which brings to Russia the brands such as Cacharel, US Polo and Pierre Cardin. Due to some political positions there, they are pressing Turkey. The new season is about to be opened, and we have to send products urgently. However, our trucks are kept at the customs for 15 to 20 days. Customers are losing faith in the company as they are unable to launch the season. The prime minister should take action to solve the problem urgently.

Textile and clothing exports were Turkey's biggest foreign currency earner last year, bringing in $22.6 billion to help cap a trade deficit that's widening as energy costs rise.