Reports: Prime Minister’s Office advancing embargo on Turkish imports

Officials warn move could prompt sanctions against Israel from World Trade Organization and lead to higher cost of living; PMO denies it plans total embargo

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a joint statement to the media in Baghdad, Iraq, April 22, 2024. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/Pool via AP)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a joint statement to the media in Baghdad, Iraq, April 22, 2024. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/Pool via AP)

The Prime Minister’s Office is advancing an embargo on the import of goods from Turkey, according to Hebrew media reports on Wednesday.

A draft resolution that was distributed to various ministers on Tuesday night explained that the import embargo was a response to a boycott on trade with Israel that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced in May, according to Calcalist, The Marker and Walla.

Israel has since been forced to import Turkish goods through third-party countries.

Turkish exports to the Palestinian Authority are still allowed, however, which the draft resolution said violated customs agreements between the two countries.

“Turkey’s unilateral actions could set a precedent for other countries and harm Israel’s national security, especially at a time when the State of Israel is at war,” the draft resolution said.

“Furthermore, the violation could damage Israel’s economy because of the integration between the Israeli and Palestinian markets.”

If approved, the Israeli ban would only apply to imports from Turkey and not to products made in Turkey and imported from elsewhere.

The move is being discussed among a team of officials from the PMO and the Economy, Foreign and Finance ministries, according to Calcalist.

According to the draft resolution, trade between Israel and Turkey stood at $6.2 billion in 2023. Imports from Turkey were worth $4.6 billion, and exports to Turkey were worth $1.6 billion.

Officials in the inter-ministerial team warned that placing an embargo on imports from Turkey could constitute a violation of the World Trade Organization’s rules because Israel does not have a sufficient reason to boycott Turkish imports.

According to Calcalist, Israel for its part did not have the basis to file a complaint with the WTO against Turkey’s boycott, because banning imports from a country over a war is considered in keeping with the organization’s regulations.

Erdogan said Turkey was boycotting Israeli imports in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza where Israel is at war with Hamas, after the terrorist organization’s October 7 attack in which some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were murdered, and 251 were taken hostage.

Demonstrators protest in solidarity with Gaza, outside the Israeli consulate in Istanbul, Monday, May 6, 2024. (AP/Emrah Gurel)

If Israel was seen to be violating the organization’s regulations, the officials said, it could lead to sanctions against the country and other countries may stop imports from Israel too.

The head of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, Gilit Rubinstein, told Calcalist that another concern was that “any decision made by the government will directly influence the cost of living.”

Rubinstein explained that an in-depth survey conducted by the federation revealed that importers in Israel were dealing with 10%-30% rises in prices.

“In the competitive market, if one avenue is closed, supply goes down, leading to rising prices. Creating alternative markets is a process that takes time, which the government is not allowing for,” she said.

The PMO denied advancing a full embargo on imports from Turkey, however.

Responding to a request for comment from Calcalist, it said that “the inter-ministerial team headed by the PMO is debating several possible alternatives to managing trade relations with Turkey as a result of unilateral violations and the discriminatory steps Turkey took against the State of Israel.”

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