The Republic of Turkey is strategically located at an intersection between Western Asia and Southeastern Europe. The transcontinental nation shares its borders with eight countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Greece, Georgia, Iran, Iraq and Syria.
Turkey shipped US$168 billion worth of products around the globe in 2018. That figure represents roughly 1% of overall global exports estimated at $17.546 trillion one year earlier during 2017 (calculated as of February 6, 2019).
From a continental perspective, 57% of Turkish exports by value are delivered to European countries while 24.9% are sold to Asian importers.
Turkey ships another 8.4% worth of goods to Africa and 6.1% to North American customers. A much smaller percentage of Turkish exports arrived in Latin America (1.6%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.
Turkey’s Top Trading Partners
Below is a list showcasing 15 of Turkey’s top trading partners in terms of export sales. These are countries that imported the most Turkish shipments by dollar value during 2018. Also shown is each import country’s percentage of total Turkish exports.
- Germany: US$16.1 billion (9.6% of total Turkish exports)
- United Kingdom: $11.1 billion (6.6%)
- Italy: $9.6 billion (5.7%)
- Iraq: $8.4 billion (5%)
- United States: $8.3 billion (4.9%)
- Spain: $7.7 billion (4.6%)
- France: $7.3 billion (4.3%)
- Netherlands: $4.8 billion (2.8%)
- Belgium: $4 billion (2.4%)
- Israel: $3.9 billion (2.3%)
- Romania: $3.9 billion (2.3%)
- Russia: $3.4 billion (2%)
- Poland: $3.3 billion (2%)
- United Arab Emirates: $3.1 billion (1.9%)
- Egypt: $3.1 billion (1.8%)
Close to three-fifths (58.3%) of Turkish exports in 2018 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
Among the above countries, Egypt led in increasing its import purchases from Turkey up in value by 29.4% from 2017 to 2018. In second place was Belgium with a 25.4% improvement, followed by Russia (up 24.4%), the Netherlands (up 23.6%), Romania (up 23.5%) and Spain (up 22.3%).
Three top trade partners decreased their imports from Turkey year over year, namely the United Arab Emirates (down -65.8%), Iraq (down -7.8%) and the United States (down -4%).
Overall Turkey posted a -$55 billion deficit on all products for 2018. That amount is a -28.4% reduction from the -$76.8 billion in red ink one year earlier.
As defined by Investopedia, a country whose total value of all imported goods is higher than its value of all exports is said to have a negative trade balance or deficit.
It would be unrealistic for any exporting nation to expect across-the-board positive trade balances with all its importing partners. Similarly, that export country doesn’t necessarily post a negative trade balance with each individual partner with which it exchanges exports and imports.
Turkey incurred the highest trade deficits with the following countries:
- Russia: -US$18.6 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2018)
- China: -$17.8 billion
- India: -$6.4 billion
- South Korea: -$5.4 billion
- Iran: -$4.5 billion
- Germany: -$4.3 billion
- United States: -$4.1 billion
- Japan: -$3.6 billion
- Brazil: -$2.8 billion
- Malaysia: -$1.8 billion
Year over year, Turkey’s fastest-growing deficits were generated by Brazil (up 28.2%), United States (up 23.5%), India (up 17.5%) and Russia (up 10.8%).
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Turkey’s competitive disadvantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Turkey to develop country-specific strategies to strengthen its overall position in international trade.
Based on Investopedia’s definition of net importer, a country whose total value of all imported goods is lower than its value of all exports is said to have a positive trade balance or surplus.
Turkey incurred the highest trade surpluses with the following countries:
- Iraq: US$6.9 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2018)
- United Kingdom: $3.7 billion
- Spain: $2.22 billion
- Israel: $2.19 billion
- Netherlands: $1.5 billion
- Romania: $1.4 billion
- Syrian Arab Republic: $1.3 billion
- Morocco: $1.3 billion
- Cyprus: $1.2 billion
- Libya: $1.1 billion
Turkey went from a -$70.8 million deficit in its trade with Spain in 2017 to earning a $2.2 billion surplus at Spain’s expense during 2018.
Among Turkey’s trading partners that generate the greatest percentage gains, Turkish surpluses with Netherlands (up 1,161%), Romania (up 117.2%) and Libya (up 78.8%) grew at the fastest pace from 2017 to 2018.
These positive cashflow streams clearly indicate Turkey’s competitive advantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Turkey to develop country-specific strategies to optimize its overall position in international trade.
Companies Servicing Turkish Trading Partners
Based on Forbes Global 2000 rankings, the following companies are examples of leading Turkish companies:
- Koç Group (industrial conglomerate)
- Sabanci Holding (automotive, banking)
- Turkcell (mobile phones)
- Enka (construction services)
- Anadolu Efes (brewery, non-alcoholic drinks)
Global trade intelligence firm Zepol lists the following firms exporting from Turkey:
- Anadolu Dokum San (cast iron/steel articles)
- Cevikler Dis Ticaret (monumental/building stone)
- Evimteks Dis Tic Ve Paz (woven fabrics, facial tissues)
- MCE Cargo (steam condensers, plywood)
- Ulus Metal San Ve Tic (chain sprockets, transmission components, auto parts)
See also China’s Top Trading Partners, Turkey’s Top 10 Exports and Turkey’s Top 10 Imports
The World Factbook, Field Listing: Imports – Commodities, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 6, 2019
Trade Map, International Trade Centre, www.intracen.org/marketanalysis. Accessed on February 6, 2019
Investopedia, Net Importer Definition. Accessed on February 6, 2019
Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on February 6, 2019
Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on February 6, 2019