The European Commission announced that on 21 December 2016, it asked the Council for a mandate to launch talks with Turkey to modernise the existing 20-year-old EU-Turkey Customs Union. The announcement stated:
The upgrade of the EU-Turkey trade relation forms an essential part of the efforts made by the EU and Turkey to deepen their relations in key areas of joint interest identified at the EU-Turkey Summit of 29 November 2015 and in the EU-Turkey statement of 18 March 2016. By making this proposal, the Commission continues to deliver on the commitments it has made.
Modernising the Customs Union to reflect current EU-Turkey trade relations would bring substantial economic benefits for both partners.
With the evolution of the economic environment and the significant growth of EU-Turkey trade, the Customs Union that entered into force in 1996 is becoming less and less equipped to deal with the modern day challenges of trade integration. The first EU-Turkey High Level Economic Dialogue last April underlined the potential of its modernisation. The modernisation and extension of the Customs Union could unlock further opportunities for EU companies in the agri-food and services sectors and the public procurement market. Respect of democracy and fundamental rights will be an essential element of the agreement.
Turkey is the EU’s 5th largest partner in trade in goods. The value of bilateral trade in goods has increased more than fourfold since 1996 and currently amounts to €140 billion annually. The EU has a positive balance of €17 billion. For Turkey the EU is the most important trading partner, representing 41% of Turkey’s global trade. Moreover, two thirds of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Turkey currently originates in the EU.