Turkey’s foreign trade deficit widened 15% y/y to $3.69bn in February, driven by a poor export performance, data from national statistics office TUIK showed on March 31.
Exports, which rose by 18% y/y in January, declined by 1.9% y/y to $12.1bn. Import growth dropped to 1.6% y/y in the month to $15.8bn from 16% y/y in January.
The country’s shipments to the EU, Turkey’s largest trading partner, declined by 3.2% y/y to $5.53bn but exports to Russia increased by a strong 26.2% y/y to $172mn. In the first two months of the year, Russia purchased $321mn worth of goods from Turkey, a 37% rise from a year earlier.
Moscow imposed a raft of economic sanctions after the downing of a Russian jet near the Syrian border by the Turkish air force in November 2015. But since the latter half of last year, Russia has gradually eased some of those trade sanctions in line with efforts at a rapprochement with Turkey.
Shipments to the Middle East, which absorbed 25% of Turkey’s exports in February, increased by 29% y/y to $3bn in the month.
TUIK data also showed that the country’s energy import bill increased by 42% y/y to $2.89bn in February. The spike in the energy import costs is likely related both to higher oil prices and the lira’s depreciation.
Across January-February, exports were up 6.7% y/y to $23.4bn but imports increased at the faster pace of 8.2% y/y to $31.4bn, leading to a trade deficit of $8bn, some 12.7% higher compared with the same period of 2016.
The government is forecasting a foreign trade deficit of $60.7bn for this year with exports reaching $153bn and imports amounting to $214bn. In 2015, the foreign trade shortfall widened nearly 12% to reach $56bn.
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