* Morocco amended trade deal, can raise duties on Turkey-source
* Competition as European brands eye China alternatives
* Complaints say it takes five times longer to clear customs
ISTANBUL, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Turkish companies say they are facing new delays in recent weeks exporting clothing to countries in North Africa where one, Morocco, has amended a trade deal allowing it to raise duties by up to 90% on such goods.
The exporters of ready-to-wear clothes have complained about unusual requests for paperwork and delays of up to five times the norm clearing customs in Morocco and Algeria, three sector groups told Reuters.
The trade ministries in Morocco and Algeria were not immediately available to comment.
Reuters could not determine the reason for the delays. The complaints come as textile and clothing manufacturers in North Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe position to take advantage of the disruption to global supply chains from the coronavirus pandemic.
Big European brands are looking for alternative production hubs, such as Turkey and Morocco, that are located closer than manufacturing giant China.
Morocco’s government, worried that a 2004 free trade deal with Turkey has harmed its manufacturers and retailers, said last week that talks that began with Ankara in January led to an amendment in August.
A trade ministry source said the amendment allows Morocco to raise duties by up to 90% on 1,200 products including textiles and clothing for five years.
Turkey’s trade ministry declined to comment.
Giyasettin Eyyupkoca, head of Turkey’s Laleli Industry and Business Association, said Morocco has long imposed the highest legal duties on Turkish imports in order to support domestic production.
But in recent months exporters have faced “unofficial and undocumented” delays at the border, he said. “It even takes 10-12 days to clear our goods through customs, instead of two days as usual.”
Eyyupkoca said worries about a “tougher stance” from North African countries were heightened given rising trade barriers in the Gulf, where Saudi Arabia’s Chambers of Commerce has called for a boycott of Turkish products on political grounds.
‘KEEP TURKEY OUT’
Turkey exported $2.2 billion in goods to Morocco last year, creating a trade deficit for Rabat and prompting some Moroccan lawmakers and industry officials to complain of unfair competition.
“North African countries are trying to keep Turkey out of the game as European brands re-organise away from China after the pandemic,” said Hadi Karasu, head of the Turkish Clothing Manufacturers’ Association.
“Especially in the last couple of months, both Turkish brands and made-in-Turkey products have been facing obstacles in North African customs ... and the latest duties in Morocco are part of this strategy,” he said.
The Turkish sector groups did not provide names of the companies lodging complaints.
Turkey exported some $18 billion in textiles last year, accounting for 10% of its total exports, according to an industry group. Total exports to Algeria were $1.9 billion.
Seref Fayat, head of the clothing unit in the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey, said the new delays in Morocco and Algeria are unrelated to tariffs and often involved requests for documents that were not required in the past.
Fayat said his group would raise the issue with Turkey’s trade ministry to try to break the bottleneck. (Additonal reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi in Rabat; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Carmel Crimmins)
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