This paper studying the 1995 EU-Turkey Customs Union (CU) reveals that the CU has been a major instrument of integration of the Turkish economy into the EU and global markets, offering powerful tools to reform the Turkish economy. Turkish producers of industrial goods are protected by tariffs from external competition to exactly the same extent as EU producers, and they face competition from duty-free imports of industrial goods from world-class pan-European firms. In return, Turkish industrial producers have duty-free market access to the European Economic Area, which was recently extended to certain Mediterranean countries. Trade liberalisation achieved through the CU has thus successfully moved the Turkish economy from a government-controlled regime to a market-based one, and Turkish producers of industrial goods have performed remarkably well. The paper further shows that market access conditions for Turkish producers are determined, in addition to tariffs, by standards, conformity assessment procedures, competition policy, industrial property rights and contingent protectionism measures. The CU also offered Turkey the opportunity to establish new institutions, and modernise and upgrade rules and disciplines required for the elimination of technical barriers to trade, and for the implementation of the EU’s competition, industrial property rights, and contingent protectionism policies.
Sübidey Togan is Professor of Economics and the Director of the Centre for International Economics at Bilkent University. He is also a Research Fellow at the Economic Research Forum (ERF) and a member of Forum Euro-Mediterranée des Instituts Economiques (FEMISE).