Relationships with key textile trading partners are shifting.

Turkey's textile sector generates 7% of the country's GDP and employs two million people via more than 55,000 textile and garment enterprises. Textiles and apparel items made up 19.2 percent of Turkey's overall exports in 2015. Turkey's textile industry is mostly dependent on cotton. Turkey is now the third-largest cotton importer in the world, as local production is insufficient to fulfill demand; nevertheless, cotton production in Turkey is predicted to increase by 15% this year, reaching 425,000 hectares of planting area and 650,000 tons of total cotton production.

With a share of 48.1 percent of Turkish exports, the EU has surpassed the United States as Turkey's main export partner—but the looming prospect of Brexit may change that. The election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States is likely to have an impact on Turkey's textile sector, although the exact nature of that impact is unknown. Many textile and fabric businesses in Turkey are concerned that the Trump administration would impose high taxes on items imported from Turkey, although it is uncertain if this will happen. 

Turkey itself is facing upheaval and threats to public safety. In 2016, Turkey experienced multiple ISIL-related bombings and terrorist attacks, the most widely reported one being the attack on Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport in June 2016. This attack killed 45 people (including the three attackers) and injured more than 230 others. This increase in terrorism is causing many Western clients and consumers to avoid doing business in Turkey.

Furthermore, the turbulent political atmosphere in the nations with which Turkey conducts the majority of its textile trade is now limiting market expansion. Turkey's main export markets in the region—Yemen, Iraq, and Syria—have been decimated by civil war and other political and humanitarian problems.

Russia used to be a big market for Turkish textiles, but ties between the two countries have been deteriorating since Turkey shot down a Russian plane in November 2015, and Russia retaliated by imposing economic sanctions on Turkey. Despite the fact that the textile market—and many other markets—has already been harmed, the two nations have worked together to attempt to repair their relationship. Vladimir Putin has said that he intends to gradually lift the sanctions. However, following the assassination of Andrey Karlov, Russian ambassador to Turkey, in December 2016, it is unclear when this will be done.

Steps to healing and improvement

Turkey now does not recognize Syrian refugees as refugees, instead placing them under "temporary protection," which provides them with greater rights than traditional refugee status but only for a limited time. The Turkish government says that it is taking steps to better safeguard Syrians in Turkey, particularly children, and that it is enacting legislation to penalise businesses who employ unregistered or underage refugees.

Turkey is also expected to increase its cotton production this year, which will put it on track to become less dependent on external sources of cotton, saving the textile and apparel industry both money and ethical dilemmas. Working to improve relations with Russia will also boost the textile industry; so far, both countries are continuing to cooperate after Andrey Karlov’s assassination, which is eventually expected to lead to Russia lifting all sanctions on Turkey and allowing the textile and apparel market—amongst others—to recover.

The Turkish government’s “Turquality” program is also expected to help boost the textile and apparel market in the country. The program is intended to provide subsidies to companies and manufacturers in order to assist with marketing and strategic positioning of products.