Global Insider: Turkey-Latin America Relations

Turkey has been pursuing an active trade agenda in South America recently. Bilateral deals negotiated or ratified in the past two months include an oil agreement with Venezuela, a free-trade agreement with Chile and a taxation agreement with Brazil. In an e-mail interview, Gareth Jenkins, senior associate fellow with the Silk Road Studies Program and Turkey Initiative, discussed Turkey-Latin American relations.

WPR: What is the extent of Turkey's diplomatic and trade ties with South America?

Gareth Jenkins: During the Cold War, Turkey's ties with South America were so limited as to be almost nonexistent, but a 1995 visit by Turkey's then-President Suleyman Demirel triggered an increase in ties. There has been another flurry of interest over the last couple of years under the Justice and Development Party (AKP), with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan paying an official visit to South America in May and June 2010. But ties remain very limited. Most Turkish trade with South America is, not surprisingly, with Brazil, but at just $1.4 billion in 2009 it still accounts for only a little more than 1 percent of Turkey's total foreign trade, and the balance is heavily in Brazil's favor by a margin of nearly three to one.

Brazil and Turkey also cooperated in early 2010 in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to broker a deal to forestall additional U.N. sanctions against Iran. But that was probably a one-off. Turkey and South America are simply too far apart for regional cooperation, and, for the moment at least, neither packs the global punch necessary for the two to be effective players outside their respective regions.

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