Exports of Turkish goods to Saudi Arabia fell by 92 per cent last year as a result of an unofficial boycott imposed by the Kingdom. Data published by the Turkish Exporters Union (TIM) shows that the value of exports to Saudi companies fell from $221 million to just $16 million.
Relations between the two states has been particularly strained over the past few years due to differences in foreign policy and the murder of exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
While Riyadh has denied responsibility for the assassination and blamed it on rogue agents, Turkey has presented evidence that it was ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Last July, the Turkish authorities held a trial in absentia of a number of suspects who made up the Saudi hit squad believed to have killed Khashoggi.
Hints of a boycott began when Prince Faisal Bin Bandar Bin Abdulaziz refused to drink Turkish coffee when it was offered to him in 2019. This was followed by Prince Abdullah Bin Sultan Al-Saud calling for a boycott of Turkey and its products until Ankara “reviews its policies” with the Kingdom.
Also in July last year, reports emerged that the Saudi government was forcing businesses not to trade with Turkey and that Turkish trucks had been detained at the border. Relations got worse in September when Riyadh forced businessmen to end their investments in Turkey, followed by another Saudi prince directly calling for the boycott of Turkish imports in October.
Despite the unofficial boycott, Turkish exports to Saudi Arabia are generally much lower compared with its exports to other Middle Eastern states. The Saudis account for just 1.8 per cent of Turkish exports annually.
Prospects for improving the relationship between Riyadh and Ankara brightened towards the end of last year, however. The foreign ministers of both countries held a “sincere” meeting on bilateral relations and regional issues.