TBY talks to Hayati Yazıcı, Minister of Customs and Trade, on Turkey's trade balance, improving intellectual property rights, and streamlining customs procedures.

Hayati Yazıcı
Born in 1952, Hayati Yazıcı graduated from Istanbul University’s Faculty of Law before beginning his public service in 1976 as a prospective judge at the Istanbul Court of Justice. In 1984 he began work as a freelance attorney registered with the Istanbul Bar. He is a founding member of the ruling AK Party, and was elected as an MP in 2002, serving as Deputy Chairman in Charge of Organizational Activities. He is currently the Minister of Customs and Trade.

What measures are being taken to reduce Turkey's reliance on imports and improve its export performance?

The export volume of Turkey for January-November 2011 has increased by 20% compared to the same period in previous years, and eventually reached a level of $122.5 billion. Import volumes have increased by 33.5% and reached a level of $220 billion. These figures represent a trade deficit of some $97.5 billion.

These figures indicate a foreign trade and current account deficit in Turkey. This problem cannot be resolved in the short term because of cyclical and structural causes that underlie the foreign trade deficit, and thus the current account deficit. The foreign trade deficit is on a rapid rise as a result of the fast increase in imports and weak domestic demand in our traditional export markets, as well as by robust domestic consumption, investment demands, and the high dependency of production on the importation of intermediate goods. However, there is no need to fear. Our government has taken and will continue to take the necessary measures. In this framework, we will continue to implement action plans for the improvement of the investment climate; resolutely fight the informal economy; complete the Strategies for the Diversification of Export-Oriented Production, Input Procurement, and Export Markets; continue to take further steps to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources; and ensure the effective application of programs for the development of R&D and innovation.

What steps are being taken to offset the rise of iron and steel prices as a result of the depreciating lira?

Iron and steel products may be classified among the product groups that are of the greatest importance for Turkey's exports and imports. For example, global iron and steel exports totaled $387 billion in 2010. With its iron and steel export valued at $8 billion for that year, Turkey ranked 15th as a global exporter. The iron and steel import volume of Turkey is $16 billion, and Turkey ranks among the world's top six importers. Iron and steel ranks as the third largest item in Turkey's export and import mix. Iron and steel exports were valued around $10 billion and the import volume was $18 billion in 2011. These foreign trade figures show that iron and steel import and export volumes are increasing despite the depreciation of the Turkish lira. However, we never consider the growth of our foreign trade as a “finished process." On the contrary, we are currently striving to find an appropriate answer to the question of how we may further enhance our economy and trade. In this respect, increasing iron and steel prices is on the agenda of our Ministry. We aim to create a joint platform to bring together iron and steel producers, traders, and contractors to discuss existing problems. We are trying to ensure that sectorial representatives develop solutions to these issues, and these will be further discussed at a participatory platform under the coordination of our Ministry.

How has the Ministry of Customs and Trade improved intellectual property rights laws in Turkey?

Our Ministry aims to increase the efficiency of the customs offices, both in respect to legislation and practice, with an ultimate view of preventing the breach of intellectual and industrial rights in the domain of foreign trade. In line with this aim, we exhaustively amended the current legislation in 2009.

Owing to the legislative amendments of October 2009 in the customs area, Turkey's current legislation became mostly harmonized with the relevant regulations of the EU.

Software aimed at preserving intellectual and industrial rights was also developed in October 2009. A database has been developed based on this software, and it covers the contact details and the information and illustrations relating to the comparisons of original and counterfeit products. The information and documents digitally uploaded to this database may now be rapidly and accurately accessed by all customs officials nationwide.