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Center for Multilateral Trade Studies (MUTS)

MUTS is the first center established in Turkey on multilateral trade issues and has been active since 2012. MUTS mainly focuses on the global developments concerning “rule based trade” with special emphasis on the processes of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The Center has succeeded in becoming a part of the network of the relevant international think tanks, centers and   academic institutions and has engaged in joint publications and projects. Thus, MUTS aspires to reach the capacity to conceive the major trends in the global trade horizon before they turn into full blown changes.

Change and improvement in global trade rules are occurring at a fast pace. The scope of multilateral trade also went through a profound transformation. In the last 25 years the World Trade Organization had limited success in addressing the need to adapt new trade rules as the nature of global trade changed. Nevertheless, the WTO is the most important platform in regulating international trade, and establishing rules for the global trade regime. It is essential for Turkey to follow closely the developments in the WTO as the main pillar of the existing trade agreements and as the foremost platform for the ongoing negations to further liberalize the system.

Together with the technological developments, world trade volume increased rapidly and international trade policies’ scope widened, transcending the traditional tariffs and customs applications. Today, the “rule based global trade”  system comprises issues that are not traditionally a part of the trade agreements  such as foreign direct investment, environment and climate change, energy, food security, animal health and phytosanitary issues, technical standards, competition policies, intellectual property rights, public procurement, labour market regulations and exchange rate policy.

On the other hand, the EU, the US and the other developed countries were forced to seek alternative routes beside the WTO processes when faced with insurmountable difficulties during the Doha Development Round negotiations due its broad agenda and the negotiation practices. The delay of the multilateral system in responding to the current issues necessitates the parties to engage in binding regional trade arrangements.

Many countries spearheaded by the EU, engage in free trade agreements to respond to the arising issues of the global trade through regional or bilateral arrangements. The concluded TPP agreement (The Trans-Pacific Partnership) with the Pacific countries and the ongoing the negotiations of the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) between the EU and the US should be followed closely by all, due to their game changing nature.

Turkey needs to pursue a more active policy in relation with the dynamics of the global trade in order to take its well-deserved place in the world trade and economy. Turkey’s trade relations with the EU based on its Customs Union agreement is asymmetrically vulnerable to EU’s free trade agreements. In this context, it is important that Turkey should position itself in a course of multilateral, regional and plurilateral negotiations, while closely following the occurring developments.

The views arguing “mega” trade agreements such as TTIP and TPP shall become venues whereby new rules of global trade shall be drawn is of particular concern to Turkey.  In addition, plurilateral agreements such as Trade In Services Agreement (TISA) is another area that needs further elaboration.

The updating of the Customs Union as an initiation of a transformative process to make Turkey more adoptable to global trade developments needs further analysis.

In this context, Center for Multilateral Trade Studies focuses its research on updating the Customs Union which catalyses Turkey’s effective involvement in global trading system. In the light of these developments, MUTS makes studies in issues pertinent to the developments in global trading system which is vital to Turkish business organizations and mainly TOBB (Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey); provides policy briefs to related bodies and make proposals to policy-makers.

MUTS organizes events in conjunction with the Ministry of Economy, private sector institutions, professional organizations and NGOs in order to bring the recent developments in global trade and investment realm into domestic agenda.