Turkey recorded a trade deficit of $19,382 million in 1996, 38 per cent higher than in the previous year, according to the State Institute of Statistics (DIE). Imports increased by 19 per cent to $42,464 million, while exports rose more slowly by 7 per cent to $23,082 million.

Technical difficulties in the government’s customs departments over aligning with EU reporting procedures delayed publication of the data. However, an imports slowdown appears to be reflected in figures already produced by the DIE for the visible trade balance in January-March, when imports rose by only 5.5 per cent to $9,964 million compared with the first quarter of 1995. Exports rose over the same period by 6 per cent to $5,830 million.

The EU appears to have gained most from the first year of the Customs Union. Turkey imported 32.5 per cent more from the EU in 1996 than a year previously, and increased exports to the EU by only 3.7 per cent.

The central bank recently reported a lower than expected current accounts deficit for January-November 1996 of $3,273 million. The central bank also gave alternative figures for the current account including the grey market ‘suitcase trade’ with eastern European and former Soviet states. The January-November 1996 deficit was $561 million taking that trade into account, the central bank figures claim.

However, a senior IMF official doubted the trade was as high as presented by the central bank data, although it has been calculated from studies by a joint central bank-IMF project.