Mehmet Şimşek : Speaking at the WEF in Davos: EU trade matters more than US

DAVOS, Switzerland

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek said on Thursday U.S. protectionism under a Trump presidency would have a negative impact on the global economy but a limited effect on Turkey.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Simsek said the European Union mattered “ten times” more than the U.S. as a trading partner for Turkey.

"As far as Turkey is concerned, the EU matters ten times more than the U.S. as far as a trading partner. The EU accounts for about 50 percent of our trade. The U.S. accounts for roughly five percent.

“So, for us, the EU matters more," Simsek said.

The coming presidency of Donald Trump continued to dominate Davos, despite the U.S. President-elect’s non-participation as he prepares for his inauguration in Washington on Friday.

About rumored U.S. economic protectionism under Trump’s leadership, Simsek said: "Protectionism is bad for the global economy. It is bad for emerging markets."

"We are delighted that the European Commission has given the go-ahead, a green light for upgrading the customs union to expand into agriculture services and public procurement … that could easily double the trade volume between Turkey and the EU over a decade or so from about $150 billion to $300 billion dollars.

“It is good for the EU and Turkey. So, we are not that concerned about the stated protectionist tendencies," he added.

Simsek also said emerging markets would still need foreign investments.

About the Trump effect on combating terrorism and conflicts in the Middle East, Simsek said: "We are hoping that the U.S. will continue to be engaged with the rest of the world in terms of combating terrorism."

"The Middle East is a region that has been a state of chaos and it has significant implications for the global economy in terms of migration, refugees, global terror,” the Turkish minister said.

"We are looking forward to working with the U.S. in a more constructive fashion in terms of addressing problems that exist in the Middle East, in particular in Syria and Iraq and elsewhere which has been a big drag for Turkey and the Turkish economy," Simsek said.

British premier talks of 'momentous change'

British Prime Minister Theresa May also spoke at Davos on Thursday, focusing on her country’s 2016 vote to leave the EU.

"The United Kingdom -- a country that has so often been at the forefront of economic and social change -- will step up to a new leadership role as the strongest and most forceful advocate for business, free markets and free trade anywhere in the world," May said.

About Britain's exit from the EU, May said "Let us not underestimate the magnitude of that decision. It means Britain must face up to a period of momentous change. It means we must go through a tough negotiation and forge a new role for ourselves in the world."

Noting that Brexit "is not well understood internationally," May added: "Some of our European partners feel that we have turned our back on them. And I know many fear what our decision means for the future of the EU itself."

"Our decision to leave the European Union was no rejection of our friends in Europe, with whom we share common interests and values and so much else. It was no attempt to become more distant from them, or to cease the co-operation that has helped to keep our continent secure and strong," May claimed.

More than 3,000 politicians and businesspeople from 100 countries have been participating in about 400 sessions in the Swiss village.

About 30 world leaders will attend the summit, including UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, World Trade Organization chief Roberto Azevedo and IMF head Christine Lagarde.

The forum will also tackle a range of topics, including conflicts in Syria and Iraq plus the refugee crisis.

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