Turkish President Visits Latin America

Turkey is interested in subscribing free trade agreements (FTA) with Latin American and Caribbean countries with the aim of strengthening trade exchanges. Turkish president, Tayyip Erdogan visited Latin America hoping to boost trade by 2030.  Exchanges between Turkey and Latin America have experienced a significant increase from $USD 1 billion in 2014 to near $USD10 billion.

Erdogan visited Chile on January 31, the first country in the region to sign a free trade agreement with Turkey in 2009. This is the first visit since late president Suleyman Demirel travelled there in 1995. Next in the agenda was a visit to Perú and to Columbia in hopes to seal an agreement with these two nations. Erdogan said that he has 13 diplomatic missions, as opposed to the six missions he had in 2009. However, he did not disclose what the other nations might be.

Some think that Turkey is seeking to diversify its partners from its traditional EU partners. Those who are skeptical warn that this interest in Latin America is a diversion. Some go as far as to say that it reflects Turkey’s growing soft power.  

Korkut Boratav, said the main purpose of trip is the need to study the specifics of running a country under the presidential system. Chile is one of the largest producers and exporters of copper in the region, but revenues from copper supply to foreign markets are distributed among foreign and local producers. Therefore, in the opinion of the expert, the trip will not take major economic advantages for the Turkish side. 

Boratav states that the visit of the Turkish leader to Chile, Peru and Ecuador may be related to Erdogan’s plans to introduce a presidential system in Turkey. Chile, Ecuador and Peru are countries where such system is already in place. The Turkish president might wish to study the relationship between the president and the parliamentary majority. 

Still, in Ecuador the parliamentary majority belongs to the party of President Correa. In this context Peru is the opposite of Chile because the Peruvian president lost parliamentary support.

Whatever the reasons for the visit, not everyone was happy to receive the Turkish president. A group of students from the Institute of National Studies (IAEN)protested during Erdogan's visit to Ecuador.

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