Turkish exports at record $152 bln as deficit narrows in 2012

Ships wait to be loaded at a port in the western province of Bursa in this April 4, 2012 photo. (Photo: Cihan, Adem Elitok)

January 02, 2013, Wednesday/ 10:39:00

Turkey saw the largest annual export earnings in its history with nearly $152 billion in 2012, Turkish Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan said on Wednesday. Strong exports -- which grew by 12.6 percent over the previous year -- helped to narrow the current account deficit (CAD) to around $50 billion in total for 2012, a figure which Çağlayan told reporters in Ankara was a marked improvement over the $77 billion deficit seen in 2011.

 According to data provided by the Turkish Exporters' Assembly (TİM), the country earned $11.8 billion in exports in December 2012.

Çağlayan on Wednesday cited export growth as a key reason why Turkey is expected to reach 3 percent growth rate for 2013 despite a disappointing 1.6 percent growth in the third quarter. It was also a sign that Turkey, which the minister hailed as an International Monetary Fund (IMF) “debtor turned creditor,” is continuing to weather the global economic gloom. “Of course this growth figure from my perspective could grow further, but when compared to other economies at the moment, there's a significant difference,” he was quoted as saying.

Turkey's biggest exporter in 2012 was the automotive industry, which sold $19.6 billion worth of vehicles and automotive components to overseas buyers. That number was nevertheless 5.5 percent lower compared to 2011. The month of December saw $1.6 billion worth of automotive exports, also a 5.5 percent decline over the same month last year. The TİM report said that the biggest growth in exports was seen in manufactured goods, industrial chemicals and consumer electronics.

The TİM figures did not include an estimate of gold exports, which have bolstered Turkish trade numbers as Iran buys up the commodity to weather international sanctions. In the first 11 months of 2012, Turkey exported $13.2 billion in gold compared to $1.2 billion in 2011.

Turkey's December export numbers, meanwhile, showed the growing depth of the country's export markets. Iraq usurped Germany, traditionally Turkey's largest export market, with $1.2 billion in exports for the month, while Germany came in second with $971 million worth of Turkish goods and England third with $674 million. Emerging markets in the Middle East and Africa have become key customers for Turkish exports and as they grew, Turkish exports to the EU fell from 45 percent in 2011 to 42 percent in 2012.

Germany nevertheless remained Turkey's largest trading partner in 2012, purchasing $12.9 billion worth of exports. Iraq followed in second place followed by England, Russia, Italy and France.

TİM head Mehmet Büyükekşi told reporters on Wednesday that as emerging markets continued to grow throughout 2013, Turkey's exports were expected to rise as well. Büyükekşi set a target of $160 billion in total exports for 2013.

2012 also saw a sizeable growth in exports from the country's underdeveloped southern provinces, Büyükekşi said. The province of Gaziantep registered a 20 percent growth in exports in 2012, making it Turkey's leader, the trade head added, though he didn't provide total trade volume figures for the province. Ankara hopes that the country's least developed provinces will make up an increasing proportion of industrial production under its Organized Industrial Zone (OSB) plan, which divides Turkey into six regions and provides the poorer regions with tax breaks and subsidies for workers' social security payments.

The state-owned export credit agency, Eximbank, is also set to help exporters boost trade by providing $30 billion in loans throughout 2013, General Manager Hayrettin Kaplan said on Wednesday. Eximbank provided $21 billion worth of support to exporters in 2012, Kaplan added.

Çağlayan declined to comment on December's import numbers, telling the press that the numbers would be released by the state's statistics agency later this week. The first 11 months of 2012 saw imports fall by just 1.6 percent over the same period last year to $216.7 billion.

Imports have been low amid a year of slow domestic demand, though demand picked up again in November, registering a 12.5 percent increase over November of last year at $21 billion. That increase outstripped in absolute terms the 24.8 percent year-on-year export increase to $13.8 billion in November and suggested that Turkey's trade deficit may be set to widen again. If it does, it would threaten the “rebalancing period” of low inflation and a trimmed-down trade imbalance which have defined the latter half of 2012, and would suggest a return of domestic demand-driven economic growth.

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