Let Turkey Join NAFTA
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
In December 2002 the chiefs of the European Union rejected the request of the government of Turkey to set a time schedule for negotiations to have Turkey enter the Union. The alleged reason the EU chiefs have not let Turkey in is its human rights record, including its treatment of the Kurds. But many Turks suspect that the real reason is that Turkey is Muslim, as ten Eastern European countries have been put on schedule for admission to the EU.
Turkey has been attempting to enter the EU for 40 years, during which time many European countries have joined. The U.S. government had lobbied for a firm date to begin the negotiations for Turkey's membership. Turkey has been changing its laws in order to fulfill the criteria for EU membership. In 2002 the country enacted laws to abolish the death penalty in peacetime and increase the rights of the Kurds.
A small part of the territory of Turkey is in Europe. Historically, the Turkish Empire occupied southeastern Europe, extending to Hungary. After World War I, Turkey became a republic and sought to modernize and become a proponent for peace and progress. Erdogan's Islamic party won the elections in Turkey in 2002, and although he has not yet taken office, the White House received him as a head of state.
Membership in the EU would help end Turkey's historic conflict with Greece, which continues especially in Cyprus, divided into Turkish and Greek sections. Since Greece is a member of the EU, Turkey's membership would make the border in Cyprus less important.
A Wall Street Journal editorial in December 13, 2002, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan is reported as proposing to President Bush that the Turkey join NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. The editorial stated approval of this idea. I agree!
As the WSJ editorial points out, integrating Turkey into Europe or a partnership with North America is important because this would spearhead integrating the Islamic and Christian worlds. The Turkish model serves as an example for other Muslim countries, few of which are democratic. Turkey also shows how a Muslim country can have a secular government.
The United States already has a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with Turkey. The fact that Turkey is in Europe and Asia should not hinder its being in NAFTA, since it is also in NATO, which is the "North Atlantic" Treaty Organization. Free Trade would benefit both Turkey and the US and would solidify the alliance between the two countries. This would also show the Europeans that there is an alternative to the EU for countries that seek EU membership.
NAFTA could become a global free trade alternative to the European Union. Indeed, Turkey may eventually be better off in NAFTA than in the EU, since the Turks would not have to suffer from the stifling EU bureaucracy. The European economies are not doing well under their restrictive labor laws and high taxes.
Letting Turkey into NAFTA would send a strong signal to Muslims who have been falsely led to believe that US policy is anti-Islam. The 67 million Turkish Muslims would be united in free trade with Americans, Mexicans, and Canadians. Perhaps other Muslim nations would want to join, too, such as Jordan. Why not? The more countries join, the better for all.
Turkey's problems with the Kurds should not be an excuse for rejection from an economic union. Turkey in either the EU or NAFTA would have greater incentives to further human rights reforms. The political pressure would be to conform to the higher standards of the union.
If NAFTA goes global, perhaps some EU members would quit and move over to NAFTA. Europe is choking with double and triple bureaucracies, leaving it with high unemployment. A global NAFTA could be an attractive alternative, as the EU seeks to become a governmental union as well as a single economy. With expanded membership and a couple of dozen languages, Europe will find it is pushing centralization too fast and too far. If Turkey joins NAFTA, then its rejection by Europe may turn out to be the first of many European and Asian countries that would turn NAFTA into a global free trade area.
-- Fred Foldvary
Copyright 2003 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.
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