Leading Turkish businessmen have claimed that Saudi Arabian authorities have stepped up efforts to block imports, warning that global supply chains are being hurt.
In a statement published Saturday, the heads of Turkey’s eight largest business groups cited complaints by Saudi companies that authorities forced them to sign letters committing not to import Turkish goods, and complained that Turkish contractors were excluded from major tenders.
They also pointed to last month’s warning by AP Moller-Maersk, the world’s largest container line, about likely disruption in supplies, and an October 3 tweet by Council of Saudi Chambers chairman Ajlan Al Ajlan urging a boycott of imports from Turkey.
“This issue has gone beyond bilateral economic relations and become a problem for global supply chains,” said the joint statement that was signed by industry leaders, exporters, contractors and unions.
“Any official or unofficial initiative to block trade between the two countries will have negative repercussions on our trade relations and be detrimental to economies and people of both countries.”
Turkey hasn’t ruled out an appeal to the World Trade Organisation. Saudi Arabia is the country’s 15th biggest export market, with sales led by carpets, textiles, chemicals, grains, furniture and steel amounting to $1.91 billion in the first eight months of the year. That’s a drop of 17 percent from 2019.
While some of that decline can be attributed to the pandemic, Saudi statistics show the value of Turkish imports has fallen each year since 2015.
The two countries have clashed repeatedly over recent years, with relations plummeting after the 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.
Many of their differences centre around the Saudi monarchy’s resistance to use their shared dominant religion, Islam, as a foundation for a popular political movement, which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan embodies.
Erdogan’s backing of former Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi and other Muslim Brotherhood-inspired movements across the region prompted Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt to align in an anti-Turkey bloc. That’s left Riyadh and Ankara on opposite ends of a conflict in Libya.