The mounting tensions between Saudi Arabia and Turkey are resulting in a boycott of Turkish goods in the entire Middle East and North African countries.
There has been an increasing hostility between the two countries in recent years following Turkey’s aggressive rhetoric and aggression in the Eastern Mediterranean, Libya, and Syria. The demands for informal sanctions and a complete boycott of Turkish goods have in the recent past spread to North Africa and the Middle East.
The tensions between Turkey and the Gulf states started after the military coup in Egypt in 2013, the blockade against Qatar in 2017, the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and the recognition of Israel.
The developments will have ramifications for the economy of Turkey’s close ally, Pakistan, too, a country already faced with several economic challenges, as it may result in the isolation of the country in the Arab world, even the North African countries.
Given the immense economic and political clout of the Saudi regime in the Gulf countries, along with North African Muslim countries, challenges emerge for both Turkey and Pakistan in trade and other sectors.
Turkey is facing significant economic challenges from Saudi Arabia in the past few months, after several political conflicts in the Gulf nations.
On October 3, Ajlan bin Abdulaziz Al-Ajlan, head of the Council of Saudi Chambers, took to Twitter to call for a boycott of Turkish goods. Since then, several Saudi companies have followed suit. The country’s Chambers of Commerce called for a nationwide boycott of Turkish products on October 4.
“A boycott of everything Turkish, be it imports, investment or tourism, is the responsibility of every Saudi ‘trader and consumer,’ in response to the continued hostility of the Turkish government against our leadership, country, and citizens,” businessman Ajlan al-Ajlan tweeted.
المقاطعة لكل ماهو تركي، سواء على مستوى الاستيراد او الاستثمار او السياحة، هي مسؤولية كل سعودي "التاجر والمستهلك"، رداً على استمرار العداء من الحكومة التركية على قيادتنا وبلدنا ومواطنينا،
— عجلان العجلان (@ajlnalajlan) October 2, 2020
As the tensions reached new levels between the two Islamic nations, the Saudi fast-food chain announced that it was replacing the Turkish beef patty with an identical ‘Greek burger’. It is pertinent to mention that Turkey is already embroiled in a conflict with Greece over the Eastern Mediterranean maritime issues.
Multiple Turkish companies claimed that they are having difficulty bringing goods to Saudi Arabia and winning construction contracts there. The world’s largest container and supply ship company, Maersk, had reportedly warned its customers that goods exported from Turkey to Saudi Arabia were very likely to be banned from entering.
The company issued a statement saying, “There may be long waiting times for the goods to enter the country and they may be left entirely to customs.” The statement warned that any expenses arising from bureaucratic processes will fall on the customer and that he must pay if he decides to export his goods to the Kingdom.
According to a report in Dunya newspaper, a businessman claimed to have personally heard Saudi officials say they did not want an item with “Made in Turkey” written on it.
On October 22, one anchor on Fox TV asserted, “Even if (Turkish goods) enter the country, the shops will clearly label them as Turkish goods, so that no one touches them.”
Meanwhile, local media outlets have reported that people involved in the export business in Turkey are facing sanctions in Saudi Arabia.
Troubles in North Africa
It seems the boycott of Turkish businesses is not restricted to the Gulf states, the country’s businessmen are claiming to have faced difficulties in North Africa and the Gulf. One pro-government Turkish daily Sabah reported on October 13 that the Turkish export companies were facing demands and delays in Algeria for unusual documents.
The country’s nationalist magazine Olusal reported on October 14 that Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia had quadrupled the time it took to clear Turkish goods from customs. Morocco announced it was amending a free trade agreement reached with Turkey in August to impose a 90 percent duty on exports of some industrial goods.
“The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are using their relations with the United States, their financial resources, and their monopoly on the Arab League, and they are concerned about Turkey’s actions in Libya, Syria, and the Eastern Mediterranean,” BBC quoted one Turkish businessman as saying.
Turkish journalist Amin Kapa claimed that “Saudi Arabia had put the UAE behind us and was putting pressure on Tunisia and Algeria,” as quoted by BBC. He said that Saudi Arabia has declared an economic, political, and psychological war on Turkey.
Turkey’s relations with the UAE were already strained since the Arab country supported former Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who ousted the Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013.
Economic Losses to Turkey
In October, the Turkish Logistics Association warned that about $3 billion in exports to Saudi Arabia were at risk. “Turkey will have to pay the price for these sanctions and European and American efforts for a stable supply chain in the new era will suffer,” Merah Kapiz, deputy secretary of the Foreign Economic Relations Board, warned in October.
It is speculated the Saudi government denied that it was encouraging a boycott fearing backlash on its trade policies such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) sanctions and other reputational damages.
It is also speculated that Saudi’s unofficial boycott of Turkish businesses is connected to the “informal” and indirect rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Israel as well as the possibility of Israeli goods entering the Saudi market via Bahrain and the UAE.
The experts also believe that the trade boycott calls by Saudi businesses cannot be made without the “blessings” of the Saudi leadership, considering the Kingdom’s poor record in granting freedom of expression to its citizens.
The Saudi-led economic ostracization has also affected Turkey’s ally Pakistan, whose relations with the Gulf countries are already witnessing a historic low. There have been a few direct conflicts between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan over many geopolitical issues recently, and Pakistan’s growing relationship with Turkey has added fuel to the fire.
The UAE recently imposed a temporary ban on the entry of nationals from 12 countries, which included Pakistan, reportedly to curb the Covid-19 cases in the country. However, Pakistan has one of the lowest cases of infection in the world. The prohibition on the country’s citizens from entering the Emirates is, therefore, a clear sign that it may have been a fallout of the Islamic country’s new rivalry with the Arab countries.
As a result, Pakistan’s economy stands to suffer immensely if the Gulf nations, along with the North African countries aligned with the Saudi government, choose to boycott trade with the country. The country’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, recently announced the country had received record remittances this year from its foreign-based nationals, which are mainly in the Gulf countries.
The country’s economy is already teetering on the brink of a downturn and any further curbs in its trade with other countries are going to make things worse. Pakistan’s trade with many African countries runs into billions, which may too suffer a major hit due to any impending economic boycott.