Free trade discussion with Turkey premature, says U.S. Secretary of Commerce

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said on Thursday it was too early to talk about a free trade arrangement between Ankara and Washington, CNN Türk reported.

"We do not have an agreement on free trade right now. It is a little early to talk about a free trade arrangement," Ross said in an interview with CNN Türk.

The Secretary of Commerce said it is more important to arrive at an agreement in various other topics that would legitimise a free trade arrangement between two countries.

The two NATO allies have been in a row over the S-400 purchase for months, with Washington arguing that the Russian systems are both incompatible with and pose a security threat to NATO defence systems.

Turkey risks further sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, which aims to deter third parties from defence partnership with Russia. There is bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress to take further punitive measures against Turkey. 

Ross said economic agreements could positively affect long-standing disputes between Turkey and the United States, adding that there is good chemistry between Turkish President Erdoğan and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump, and the U.S. President encouraged him to come to Turkey.

Ross held meetings with Turkish Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan and various representatives of Turkish private sector.

The United States in May terminated Turkey’s preferential trade agreement that allowed it to export some products free of duties, while it cut by half tariffs on Turkish steel imposed in August, 2018.

The decision came as relations between Ankara and Washington strained over the almost two-year detention of an American pastor. The lira slumped against the dollar as a result. 

Turkey has asked to receive the preferential trade treatment once again and for tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminium to be lifted, Ross said, but he did not elaborate on U.S. demands from Turkey.