A semi-official boycott of Turkish products in Saudi Arabia is increasingly worrying exporters in Turkey. The revenue from Turkish trade with the kingdom is in danger of falling by about 10% this year compared to 2019. Since the Arab Spring, relations between the two countries have deteriorated.
The Saudi government has not yet dared to formally announce sanctions against Turkey, presumably in order to avoid any problems with the World Trade Organisation, but everything points to the fact that the boycott was orchestrated from the royal palaces in Riyadh.
For months, Turkish entrepreneurs have been complaining that they are being made more and more difficult to do business with Saudi Arabia: visas are not issued, payments are not made, etc. At the beginning of this month, there was a call for a boycott of all Turkish is, ” the president of the Chamber of Commerce and industry in Riyadh, is formally a private body.
Since then, a real campaign has been launched on social media and in the press, with hashtags as #Boycotturkish products. A large number of companies have joined. Last week, the four largest supermarket chains in Saudi Arabia announced that they would no longer import Turkish products. In the shops calls appeared to customers not to buy Turkish goods.
On Twitter, there is a caricature of a hand wrapped in the Saudi flag pulling Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his earlobe. “Don’t buy anything Turkish,” it says in another message. “Erdogan attacks our country with our own money.’
Relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia have gradually deteriorated since the Arab Spring of 2011, when Ankara supported the popular uprisings to the horror of the royal rulers in Riyadh. Both countries are committed to a leading role in the region.
The relationship was further threatened by the murder two years ago in Istanbul of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, presumably on behalf of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. At the end of September, six more Saudi officials were charged with the murder in Turkey. Twenty others are already on trial (in absentia).
Turkish exports to Saudi Arabia last year amounted to EUR 2.7 billion. If the boycott continues, it could be at least 10 percent lower this year.
In addition to the food industry, the textile sector in particular feels the effects of the boycott. Mustafa Gultepe, head of the Association of Turkish clothing exporters, said in the Financial Times that the Saudi action also affects international brands such as Mango and Marks & Spencer, which produce clothing in Turkey.
Columnist Haila Al-Mashouh notes in the newspaper Saudi Gazette that more and more traders, restaurants and shops in luxury items are joining the boycott. According to her, it is an expression of “folly against a country that is openly hostile to our country and that puts our leaders in a bad light.” It ranks Turkey among the ’colonial countries’.
There are also economic motives, according to the column. The Saudi market ‘is flooded with Turkish products’. This puts domestic producers in a jam. ’ The local market must be revived’, says Al-Mashouh.