NEWS ECONOMY NEWS        02/04/2020

Coronavirus pandemic causes Turkey’s exports to fall 17.8% in March 2020 per preliminary calculations

From the beginning of 2019, the Turkish Trade Ministry has been pushing for the acceptance of the General Trade System (GTS) calculation method of foreign trade as opposed to the Special Trade System (STS) calculation method.

The GTS method, which is more inclusive, has been seen to provide more positive trade figures, and the Trade Ministry clearly wants to take advantage of this change in calculation. The Trade Ministry, in its monthly preliminary reports of trade figures, has shown over the last year both the GTS and STS figures one after the other in the same report. However, in its press announcements and bulletin summaries, the Ministry has prefered to convey the GTS figures only.


The Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK- TurkStat) continued to provide its monthly detailed data using the STS method over the last year because it needed time to calculate the relative GTS figures going back to and including 2013 for comparative purposes. However, as from January 1st, 2020, having completed its back calculation of GTS figures, it is clear that TurkStat has decided to give precedence to the GTS calculation method of foreign trade over the STS method. TurkStat is continuing to prepare foreign trade figures according to the STS method, but is likely to discontinue presentation of STS data at some time in the future.


For these reasons, our website has decided to analyse Turkey’s foreign trade data according to the GTS method as from January 2020, and visitors to our website should be aware that our analyses will be based on different data prior to and subsequent to 2019 yearend. 


As a reminder, there are broadly two approaches, closely linked with customs procedures, used for the measurement of international trade in goods. These are the general trade system and the special trade system. The General Trade System (GTS) is the wider concept and under it the statistical territory includes customs warehouses, all types of free zones, free circulation area and premises for inward processing. The Special Trade System (STS), on the other hand, is a narrower concept. Customs warehouses, all types of free zones and premises for inward processing are excluded from the statistical territory by the strict definition of the special trade system; thus only imports and exports of the free circulation area are recorded.


According to preliminary figures provided by the Trade Ministry based on the General Trade System (GTS), Turkey’s foreign trade deficit for March 2020 was USD 5,395 million, 181.8% higher than the figure for the same month of the previous year, and 81% higher than the USD 2,981 million deficit figure for the previous month of February 2020.


Exports were USD 13,426 million in March 2020, 17.8% lower than the figure for the same month of the previous year, and 8.4% lower than the figure for the previous month of February 2020. Imports were USD 18,821 million in March 2020, 3.1% higher than the figure for the same month of the previous year, and 6.7% higher than the figure for the previous month of February 2020.


The percentage of imports met by exports was 71.3% in March 2020 compared with 89.5% in the same month of the previous year.


With regards the first three months of 2020, Turkey’s foreign trade deficit was USD 12,879 million, 116.9% higher than the figure for the same period of the previous year. Exports were USD 42,783 million, 3.9% lower, and imports were USD 55,662 million, 10.3% higher than the figures for the same period of the previous year


Despite a fall in orders due to the coronavirus pandemic, automotive exports remained prominent with a 13% share of Turkey’s total exports in March 2020, compared with a share of 14.9% share in the previous month of February. Automotive exports totalled USD 1,741 million in March 2020, representing a 31.2% fall on its figure for the same month of the previous year, and a 20% fall on its figure for the previous month of February 2020.


The energy sector, with USD 2,741 million, again had the biggest share of imports in March 2020. This energy import figure was 27.4% lower than the figure for the same month of the previous year, and 12.6% lower than the figure for the previous month of February. The energy sector’s share of total imports in March 2020 was 14.6% compared with 17.8% in February 2020.


The top five countries to which Turkey exported in March 2020 are Germany (USD 1,283 million), USA (USD 880 million), UK (USD 802 million), Italy (USD 541 million), and Spain (USD 507 million). The coronavirus pandemic has had a negative effect on exports to a number of countries as travel restrictions and physical contact are restricted or reduced. Countries to which Turkish exports have fallen are as follows : Iraq – a fall of 44.6% to USD 490 million; Italy – a fall of 38.8% to USD 541 million; Spain – a fall of 37.9% to USD 507 million; Germany – a fall of 15.5% to USD 1,283 million; France – a fall of 31.1% to USD 492 million: Iran – a fall of 79.8% to USD 48 million; Qatar – a fall of 55.6% to USD 90 million; Malta – a fall of 84.9% to USD 20 million; UAE – a fall of USD 32.1% to USD 224 million; and the UK – a fall of 10.9% to USD 802 million.


The top five countries from which Turkey imported in March 2020 are Germany (USD 1,951 million), USA (USD 1,467 million), China (USD 1,420 million), Russia (USD 1,379 million), and Switzerland (USD 990 million).


For the year 2019, the trade deficit was USD 29,496 million, a 45.4% decrease on the previous year. Exports in the year 2019 were USD 180,848 million (a 2.1% increase) and imports were USD 210,344 million (a 9% decrease).


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