Saudi-Turkish war of words left trade unaffected as of August

Trade between Saudi Arabia and Turkey increased in the middle of 2020 despite calls for a boycott of Turkish goods by the Saudi Chamber of Commerce in Riyadh, Reuters reported on Sunday.

The unofficial boycott has seen customs officials telling Saudi businessmen not to import goods from Turkey. Although the boycott is unofficial, Turkey has held Saudi Arabia’s government responsible for the move, with Justice and Development Party (AKP) Deputy Chairperson Numan Kurtulmuş suggesting that Saudi Arabia should “stand as an independent country”, rather than being within the United States’ sphere of political influence.

The value of imports from Turkey increased to $222 million in August from $184.9 million in July, Reuters said, citing the Saudi General Authority for Statistics.

However, it is possible that the full effect of the boycott has not been seen in the statistics yet. Local supermarket chains in Saudi Arabia have recently joined the boycott, refusing to restock Turkish goods.

Although overall monthly Saudi exports continued to rise, data showed that its exports to Turkey decreased in August to $234.5 million from $257.7 million in July. However, year on year Saudi exports are down 25 percent because of the decline in demand for oil. Saudi Arabia is the world’s number one exporter of oil.

Middle East Eye reported that Morocco may have also joined the Saudi-led boycott of Turkish exports. “On 15 October, Morocco placed restrictions on products manufactured in Turkey and Turkish supermarket chains, as well as hiking taxes on imported Turkish goods by 90 percent”, the website reported.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia have competed to be seen as the leader of the Sunni Islamic world for decades, but the rivalry has intensified in recent years over issues like the Libyan and Syrian Civil Wars, Qatar and the murder of Saudi journalist jamal Kashoggi by Saudi officials in its Istanbul embassy in 2018.