US, Turkey aim to boost trade, but not in textiles
* U.S., Turkey launch new forum to boost bilateral trade
* Kirk tells counterparts textiles a hard sell in Congress
By Doug Palmer
WASHINGTON, Oct 19 (Reuters) - The top U.S. trade official said on Tuesday the United States was unlikely to open its market to more textile goods from Turkey, as the two sides kicked off a high-level dialogue aimed at boosting trade.
"Turkey made a very strong case for what they would like to see happen. We were equally practical in trying to help them understand that this is a matter in which our Congress exercises very strong prerogative," U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told reporters after the talks.
Turkey, which this month also launched an effort to boost trade with China, is one of many countries frustrated by high U.S. tariffs on clothing and other textile goods.
Although the U.S. textile industry has dwindled over the years, the remaining companies are protected by double-digit import duties much higher than the average U.S. tariff rate of less than 2 percent.
Kirk said it would be hard for President Barack Obama to persuade Congress to waive those duties for Turkey, as the United States has done for some of the world's poorest countries to help foster economic growth.
Tuesday's inaugural meeting of the U.S.-Turkey Framework for Strategic Economic and Commercial Cooperation grew from a commitment between Obama and Turkish President Abdullah Gul in April 2009 to strengthen trade and economic ties.
Kirk and U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke co-chaired the meeting with Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan and Foreign Trade Minister Zafer Caglayan.
Locke said the Obama administration had identified Turkey as a priority market as it attempts to double U.S. exports, and will be taking two trade mission there in 2011.
The two sides announced the formation of a new U.S.-Turkey Business Council and said they were setting up a working group to cooperate on protecting intellectual property rights.
They also have plans to work on issues related to energy, trade and investment promotion, regulatory cooperation, scientific and agricultural cooperation.
Last year, the United States exported about $7.09 billion worth of goods to the country at the crossroads of Europe and Asia and imported $3.66 billion.
That makes Turkey one of the few nations that has a trade deficit with the world's largest economy.
Turkey's exports to the United States peaked at $5.4 billion in 2006 and have fallen in most years since then.
Turkey hopes the fresh dialogue with Washington marks a new era in relations and "is determined to do as much trade as it can with every country in the world," Caglayan said.
Asked whether Turkey saw China or the United States as its most important future trading partner, Babacan said Turkey was committed to maintaining "an open economy" with all countries since embarking on economic reforms in the early 2000s.
"We are implementing a multidimensional foreign policy and a multidimensional trade policy. We just want to have a high GDP for our country ... and we know this will flow through more trade and investment," Babacan said. (Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Jerry Norton)
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