British officials aim to raise bilateral trade with Turkey to up to $20 billion by 2023, a top Turkish business leader said.

The bilateral trade was $16.3 billion last year, with most of it – $11.2 billion – made up of Turkish exports, said Osman Okyay, head of the Foreign Economic Relations Board’s (DEIK) Turkey-UK Business Council.

The UK was among 17 countries where Turkey increased exports in five priority sectors – machinery, automotive, electric and electronics, chemicals, and the food industry.

If the UK and EU can reach a deal by the end of this year, Brexit provides significant opportunities for boosting the bilateral trade volume, he underlined.

“Due to the [Turkey-EU] Customs Union, Turkey can’t sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with the UK before the completion of the EU-British agreement,” now being negotiated, he said.

Saying that there are unofficial negotiations for a free trade deal between the two countries, he stressed the goal is reaching an agreement as of next January.

Local supply centers will rise

Touching on the novel coronavirus, he said the pandemic affected the two countries’ trade, with Turkey’s exports dropping 57% in April on a yearly basis.

After the pandemic, global supply chains will change, local centers will rise, there are significant advantages for Turkey, which has production capacity in its region, he said.

Turkey’s top exports to the UK comprise electrical machinery and devices, but China’s exports to UK in the same sector are 14 times higher, he noted.

In the current situation, Turkey can fill the gap, he said, adding there was an advantage in the automotive sector.

He also said the defense sector was an important sector for the two countries and cooperation in this area between Turkey and the UK will gain more importance post-Brexit.

*Writing by Gokhan Ergocun

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