This article aims to fill the methodological gap in the conventional IR literature by assessing the recent trajectory of Turkish foreign policy from the prism of international political economy, in particular global competitiveness. A holistic and interdisciplinary approach is adopted that incorporates critical insights from the disciplines of political science, international relations, economics, and development studies. The major parameters of Turkey’s structural transformation from an inward-looking, import-substituting economic and political system to a liberal export-promoting strategy are evaluated in line with the first- and second-generation neoliberal reforms in the 1980s and the 2000s, respectively. Meanwhile, the impact of economic globalization on the multifaceted processes of state transformation and the ascendancy of economic issues to the level of ‘high-politics’ in the post-Cold War era are emphasized, with special reference to the pursuit of economic diplomacy and ‘neo-protectionist’ science and technology policies by both industrialized and industrializing countries. The major caveats of accelerated global integration for Turkey’s ‘new foreign policy’ and principal policy challenges in the realms of macroeconomic management and foreign policy making are also identified.
Turkish foreign policy, economic diplomacy, neo-protectionism, compe- titiveness.
There emerged a broad-based consensus in academic and policy- oriented circles that, when compared to its conventional character that crystallized in the second half of the 20th century, Turkish foreign policy has evolved into a more multidimensional, proactive and order-generating disposition in terms of its main priorities, theoretical underpinnings and discourse in the first decade of the new millennium. In recent analyses focusing on different aspects of Turkish foreign policy, the idea that Turkey’s previous image as a ‘Cold-War warrior,’ characterized by strong military muscle, has been replaced by the use of ‘soft’ and ‘smart’ power sources was voiced with ever - increasing frequency. Similar to that, one needs to stress that the intellectual / academic depth of the mainstream international relations literature experienced a concomitant widening as a result of the mushrooming of studies that explored the ideational and practical foundations of Turkey’s new foreign policy orientation, both as a country maintaining accession negotiations with the European Union and as a shining regional power which acquired increased visibility and credibility in regional and global fora.
Based on a broad categorization among the mainstream approaches proposed to explain the ongoing transformation in Turkish foreign policy, it is possible to identify the following perspectives: studies conducted in line with the “Europeanization” literature understandably inspired by the EU membership process;1 analyses conducted with special reference to the redefinition of identity politics (constructivism) and dominant national security perceptions;2 studies that concentrate on the transformative impact of developments in domestic politics and the main foreign policy actors;3 writings that focus on geopolitical and geostrategic dynamics;4 and studies that indicate various implications of Turkey’s expanded soft power.5 It would obviously be unfair to disregard other studies that synthesize many perspectives or theoretical approaches concerned in order to produce unorthodox discourses or analytical framework in this generic categorization intended to give the reader a broad idea about the state of the academic field.
However, the crux of the matter concerns the clear absence of systematic studies in the mainstream international relations (IR) literature on the formation and implementation of Turkish foreign policy, as well as its practical implications on the ground, from the prism of international political economy (IPE). Such studies might look into classical IPE issues such as the interdependencies between political and economic factors in international affairs; the respective roles played in international economic institutions and global governance platforms, geo-economic relations with major global and regional powers, potential socio-political impacts of multinational corporations, and the link between economic performance and political legitimacy. Given the dominance of economic factors in shaping the post-Cold War parameters of global competition and Turkey’s projected national aim to become one of the top ten economies of the world by 2023,6 it is a serious methodological pitfall that the bourgeoning international relations discipline has so far neglected the role of economic factors in its explorations into Turkish foreign policy. At a time when the trend to closely coordinate the Ministries of Economy and Foreign Affairs acquired extra momentum, especially in emerging markets, it is imperative that sensitive issues such as international trade, international financial flows, foreign direct investment, relations with multinational corporations and international economic institutions, and science and technology policy are evaluated in conjunction with their foreign policy implications.
Against this background, this article aims to fill the stated methodological gap in the conventional IR literature by assessing the recent transformation trajectory of Turkish foreign policy from the prism of international political economy and global competitiveness. To this end, an interdisciplinary approach that incorporates critical insights from the disciplines of political science, international relations, economics and development studies has been adopted. In this context, major parameters of Turkey’s profound structural transformation from an inward-looking, import-substituting economy into a substantially liberalized export-promoting regime will be evaluated in line with the first- and second-generation neoliberal reforms that were completed over the course of the 1980s and the 2000s. This will be followed by a general analysis of the impact of economic globalization on the multifaceted processes of state transformation and the ascendancy of economic issues to the level of ‘high- politics’ in the post-Cold War era among both the industrialized and industrializing countries. Meanwhile, special attention will be attached to the pursuit of strategic economic diplomacy in conjunction with ‘neoprotectionist’ science and technology policies by the OECD countries and some of the leading emerging markets. The following part will assess the development trajectory of Turkey’s ‘new foreign policy’ under the Justice and Development Party (JDP) administration and its intellectual architect Ahmet Davutoğlu, parallel to comprehensive changes in Turkish political economy. Building upon the preceeding discussion, the final part will indicate the major caveats of accelerated global integration in the age of economic globalization and identify major challenges for policy makers in the realms of macro/microeconomy and foreign policy in the medium term.