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Made in Turkey? US ally seeks to edge out China

A Turkish-US business council is projecting Turkey as a trading alternative to China with the help of influential Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close associate of President Donald Trump.

Graham’s agreement to participate in a Wednesday webinar organized by the Turkey American Business Council (TAIK), an affiliate of the Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey, the country’s oldest and largest business association, comes amid Turkish efforts to improve relations with the United States as a hedge to its ties to Russia.

“The growing rift between the United States and China creates significant opportunity for geopolitical cooperation. Turkey and the United States would both benefit economically,” said a Turkish businessman.

Criticism of China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has widened the gap between Washington and Beijing and sparked calls for diversification of China-centric global supply chains.

It has also raised hopes in Ankara, suffering its first economic contraction in a decade, that the decoupling of the US and China could create common interests between the US and Turkey.

“The pre-pandemic global economy was built on a single supply chain, with China at its core,” said Turkish Vice-President Fuat Oktay in May.

“For countries like Turkey, with our robust manufacturing sector and our young population, this will be an economic opportunity,” he added.

Halkbank prosecutor fired

Turkish relations with the United States have in recent years been strained by the NATO member’s acquisition of Russia’s S-400 anti-missile defense system, the presence in the US of a Turkish preacher whom Erdogan holds responsible for a failed 2016 military coup against him, and legal proceedings against a state-owned Turkish bank, Halkbank, charged with circumventing US sanctions against Iran.

Turkish efforts to improve relations with Washington come amid a series of perceived breakthroughs.

On Monday, shares in Halkbank went up 9% after the US federal prosecutor overseeing the court case against the bank was fired by staunch Trump ally, Attorney General William Barr.

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