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Remarks at luncheon co-hosted by Center for American Progress and Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists of Turkey (TUSKON)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke
Remarks at luncheon co-hosted by Center for American Progress and Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists of Turkey (TUSKON)

Good afternoon, everyone. It’s a pleasure to be here today.

Thanks, John, for those kind words, and for co-hosting this important event.

I would also like to recognize President Meral for his many contributions to our growing commercial relationship.

The Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists of Turkey, or TUSKON, is only six years old but it has already established itself as a driving force for economic development in Turkey and a trusted partner for businesses around the world. With the opening of your Washington office in the fall of 2007, you have cemented your place as a close friend to the American business community.

Of course, Turkey and the United States have been close strategic partners for decades, working together on a range of   issues, including stability and security, trade and investment, and counterterrorism. We have joined forces to contribute to stabilization efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Our countries also have established deep cultural ties as well. Thousands of Americans visit Turkey every year, and many Turks and their descendents have come to the United States, strengthening the rich and diverse fabric of our nation. Over 12,000 Turkish students study in the U.S. – more than from any other European country!

And our cooperation in the economic sphere grows more important every day.

Consider the fact that our countries conducted nearly $15 billion in bilateral trade last year – an almost 40 percent rise from the previous year, and the most trade ever between Turkey and the U.S.

This trade was helped along by Turkey's impressive resilience in the wake of the global financial crisis. Last year, Turkey posted economic growth of over 7 percent.  Meanwhile, unemployment fell last year from 14 percent to 11 percent.

But despite the impressive burst of economic and social growth within Turkey and its growing economic ties with the United States, there is still much unrealized potential.

Although Turkey is the 17th largest global economy in the world, U.S. goods represent less than 7 percent of Turkey’s imports.

Today, I’d like to discuss how we can improve the scope of our trade for the mutual benefit of both Turkey and the United States.

Fortunately, this has already been established as a clear priority by both our countries.  

In December 2009, President Obama and Prime Minister Erdogan launched a new strategic framework to strengthen our economic bonds. It’s got a long name … the Framework for Strategic Economic and Commercial Cooperation … but it’s an important mechanism.

The framework elevates the responsibility for increasing our economic dialogue to the highest levels of both our governments.

The inaugural meeting was last October, with me and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk co-chairing on the U.S. side and Deputy Prime Minister Babacan and Trade Minister Caglayan co-chaired the Turkish side.

We focused on enhancing our business-to-business ties and discussed how we can promote innovation in both Turkey and the United States.  And we drilled down in particular on issues like:

  • Promoting renewable energy;
  • Incentivizing more entrepreneurship;
  • Helping Istanbul fulfill its role as a European and global financial center; and
  • Empowering small and medium-size enterprises

In the past few months, we've been working to turn these initial conversations into action. 

  • The Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee – a U.S. government-wide working group – has identified Turkey as a priority market thanks to its considerable market potential.  
  • We plan to schedule two trade missions to Turkey later this year – one with U.S. oil and gas companies and another with renewable energy companies.
  • Earlier this year, Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary Michael Camuñez signed an important Memorandum of Intent with the Investment and Support Promotion Agency of Turkey (ISPAT) to promote greater foreign direct investment between our two countries.
  • We have also focused on technical assistance in important industries. Just last month in Ankara, the Commerce Department, along with our embassy in Ankara, helped organize a pharmaceutical “Good Manufacturing Practices” workshop between the Turkish Ministry of Health and former Food and Drug Administration officials.
  • And, of major importance, we have agreed to create a U.S.-Turkey Business Council that will enable business leaders of both nations to provide joint recommendations to our governments on how to improve our commercial relationship.  This Council is overseen by Under Secretary for International Trade Francisco Sanchez and Turkish Under Secretary for Foreign Trade Ahmet Yakici.  We are hopeful that the Council will hold its inaugural meeting this spring.

And there are other exciting ventures in the near future. The Obama administration is working hard to help Turkey achieve its goals relating to renewable energy and energy security.

In particular, the U.S. Department of Energy, with the support of the Turkish Government, is developing an inter-agency initiative for Turkey called the Near-Zero Zone. The project will leverage resources from various U.S. government agencies, international groups and the private sector to boost the impact of energy efficiency measures through a focus on a single industrial zone in Izmir, Turkey.

I'm confident that the steps we're taking in the United States and with our Turkish partners will complement the ambitious economic development goals already in place within Turkey.

Prime Minister Erdogan has set a goal of establishing Turkey as one of the top 10 economies in the world by 2023, the 100th anniversary of the modern Turkish state.

And President Meral said last October that TUSKON is working to find 40,000 new Turkish exporters to Yakici reach a goal of $500 billion in exports within the next 12 to 13 years.

This would nearly double the number of Turkey’s exporters.

The United States is fully supportive of Turkey’s aspirations, and we are encouraged by all the progress that has already been realized.

However, for Turkey to realize its goals, we hope it will continue its efforts to build a business climate that has the kind of transparent and consistent regulatory environment that is the hallmark of the world’s most competitive economies.

It’s important for Turkey to keep regulations predictable, and in line with international guidelines, with any changes receiving proper advance notification, as required by the World Trade Organization.

Doing so will inspire investor confidence, attract foreign direct investment and encourage innovation.

And we hope Turkey will continue to lift restrictions on foreign goods and foreign companies entering its market especially in the realms of pharmaceutical and biotech products.

I’m confident that the strategic framework I mentioned earlier will help us work through these issues, and the Commerce Department and other U.S. government agencies look forward to the continuing this important dialogue.

As the United States and Turkey continue to develop and build our relationship, it’s critical that we create the type of environment that will be conducive to increased trade and investment.

There is much more than we can and should be doing to help deepen our already strong ties.

That’s why events like this are so important.  Doing business is above all about building relationships.  You trade and cooperate with people you know and trust.  The real work of relationship-building happens when we can meet … face to face … and learn about each other’s cultures and aspirations.  

For everyone here who hopes for stronger bonds between our two nations, I can assure you, you have the full support of this administration.

Thank you very much.