In a significant development, the head of Saudi Arabia’s Chambers of Commerce called for a boycott of Turkish goods and service midst merchants’ reports of animosity between Riyadh and Ankara.
Since years, both countries have been at loggerheads over foreign policy and attitudes towards Islamist political groups and Saudi journalist’s Jamal Khashoggi episode in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate in 2018 escalated this tensions dramatically.
2020 saw both countries blocking some news websites of each other.
“A boycott of everything Turkish, be it imports, investment or tourism, is the responsibility of every Saudi ‘trader and consumer’, in response to the continued hostility of the Turkish government against our leadership, country and citizens,” tweeted businessman Ajlan al-Ajlan.
The Saudi Chambers of Commerce is a non-government group of private sector business officials.
Saudi Arabia’s government media office has however said, it was committed to international trade and investment pacts and free trade.
“The official authorities in the Kingdom have not placed any restrictions on Turkish goods,” said Saudi Arabia’s government media office.
For more than a year, some Saudi and Turkish traders have speculated that Saudi Arabia was enforcing an informal boycott of imports from Turkey.
A Saudi importer on the condition of anonymity said, many containers he imported this year from Turkey was idling with customs for three months before being released; customs officials have informally advised him not to directly import products from Turkey again.
Last week, Turkish opposition lawmaker Mehmet Güzelmansur said goods, particularly perishable fruit and vegetables, exported from his region of Hatay were held at the Saudi border for longer than necessary on arrival.
In comments reported in Turkish media and on his Twitter page, he said he was concerned that what he described as the partial, informal embargo by Saudi Arabia would be widened.
Last week on Thursday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan took a swipe at Riyadh in a speech in parliament.
“It should not be forgotten that the countries in question did not exist yesterday, and probably will not exist tomorrow,” said Erdogan. “But we will continue to fly our flag in this geography forever, with the permission of Allah.”
During the second quarter of 2020, Turkey was Saudi Arabia’s 12th trade partner by total import value.
The latest data shows Saudi imports from Turkey were worth about $185 million in July, up from roughly $180 million in June.