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Remarks at Center for American Progress & Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists of Turkey (TUSKON) Luncheon

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Commerce Secretary John Bryson
Remarks at Center for American Progress & Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists of Turkey (TUSKON) Luncheon

Thank you, Neera and Rizanur-Bey. It is great to be with the Center for American Progress. It’s also great to be with the Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists of Turkey. TUSKON has become a close friend of the American business community.

And thanks to everyone here. Your presence shows that you are committed to building an even stronger bridge between our countries.

What is clear is that Turkey is coming into its own as a global economic player. Turkey’s time has come. Turkey’s moment is now.

In the mid-90s, I saw Turkey’s potential first hand.  

As CEO of Edison International, I went to Turkey when the country was starting to privatize infrastructure development and attract foreign investment.  

In 1997, Edison partnered with a Turkey energy firm–Doga Enerji–to build a plant in a greater Istanbul. The plant still operates–it supports the national grid and heats thousands of homes.

Since then, I have seen Turkey grow in dramatic ways. GDP-per-capita in Turkey has more than tripled in the past decade. Turkey is now the world’s 17th-largest economy–and an active member of the G-20, the WTO and the OECD. In 2011, Turkey was the world’s second-fastest growing economy–with a strong growth rate around percent.

And today, Ankara’s goal to push Turkey into the top 10 economies by its Centennial in 2023–the “10 by 23” plan–is an entirely plausible target.

Historically, the U.S. and Turkey have maintained close political and military ties. They date back to the Truman Doctrine and Turkey joining NATO in 1952.  

Today, we are allies on a wide range of issues–building what President Obama has called a “model partnership.” Just last week, he met with Prime Minister Erdogan when they were both in Korea. They discussed Syria, Iran and much more.

Here in the U.S., you can see our person-to-person relationships growing stronger each day. You can see it in the 13,000 Turkish students that are studying here in the U.S. You can see it in corporate leaders like Muhtar Kent, the CEO of Coca-Cola, and you can see it in more than one million Turkish-Americans who add to the rich culture and fabric of our country.

America has benefited greatly from the contributions of all these individuals. And with strong bilateral commitments from both of our countries, the future of the U.S.-Turkish economic relationship is indeed bright.

We entered a new phase in April 2009, when President Obama and President Gul agreed to elevate our commercial relationship to the strategic level. We have already begun to see the fruits of this.

For example, Turkey became a key part of the president’s National Export Initiative–which aims to double U.S. exports from 2010 to 2014. The Commerce Department helps lead this effort. I’m pleased to say that just two years into this effort–U.S. exports to Turkey have already doubled.

At the same time, Turkish exports to the U.S. are also near record levels. They are growing at a faster rate than Turkey’s exports to the rest of the world.

Overall, our trade relationship hit a record $20 billion last year.

This is great news, but we have only scratched the surface. We can continue to increase the trade flows between our two countries.

To help us do that, we launched the Framework for Strategic Economic and Commercial Cooperation, which first met in 2010. I co-chair this with our U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. On the Turkish side is Deputy Prime Minister Babacan and Economy Minister Caglayan.

The Framework is critical to promoting our mutual goals in a number of areas–not just trade. We’re asking tough questions like: How can we increase direct investment in each others’ economies? How can we cooperate more closely on regulatory issues? How can we spark more entrepreneurship and more innovation in both countries?

I’m personally interested in the answers to those questions. So today, I’m pleased to announce that I plan to attend in-person the next Framework meeting that will be held in late June in Turkey.

Right now, my Assistant Secretary Michael Camuñez is in Turkey helping to lay the groundwork for that meeting.

But it’s not enough to have our governments talking to each other. Our business leaders also need to be talking more.

That’s why the U.S.-Turkey Business Council is so important.  They held their first meeting in Istanbul last September.  They recently submitted recommendations on how to improve the business environments in both countries.  We are carefully reviewing those now.

We already know that both countries have key strengths. For example, Turkey has strong access to European markets as well as those in North Africa and the Middle East. And here in the U.S., for example we have a strong patent system and deep supply chains.

Today, we can build on our respective strengths, and we can find new ways to ensure mutual prosperity.

In particular, we need more bilateral investment. U.S. direct investment in Turkey has been steady at around $6 billion. We have several high-profile examples of investment, including Dow’s major new investment in carbon-fiber production.  And, there is room for even more investment from the U.S. to Turkey.

To date, Turkish investment in the U.S. has been relatively modest–though we are seeing examples of progress.

For example, Turkish-based Kermit makes durable and environmentally-friendly roofing tiles. Last year, local leaders from Muncie, Indiana, went to Turkey. They hoped Kermit might put a new manufacturing facility in their city. They worked with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation to win that investment of $12 million. KermitUSA plans to create 70 jobs in Muncie over the next five years. They’re the first tenant in Muncie’s new Turkish Business Center.

We need more stories like that. And my message to Turkey’s business leaders is absolutely clear: We welcome your investments in America.

SelectUSA–an initiative strongly supported by President Obama–is the first, coordinated effort by our government to attract new business investments to the U.S.

Through SelectUSA, the Commerce Department’s commercial service officers will help Turkey’s business leaders invest more in the U.S. We will serve as an information clearinghouse for CEOs and investors. We will help when they face confusion, delays, or obstacles–at federal as well as state and local levels. We will also help after they have already invested in the U.S. And we will provide opportunities to make personal connections–like what happened in Muncie.

On that note, I want to invite you to the First Annual SelectUSA Investment Summit this fall in Washington, D.C. Companies from around the world will come and meet with officials at all levels of government, including local economic development leaders.

Beyond investment, we need more commercial collaboration of all kinds. With over 1,000 U.S. companies registered in Turkey, there are many great examples: the Ford-Otosan partnership, the Turkish Airlines-Boeing relationship, and Sikorsky’s partnership to build Blackhawk helicopters.

We have also seen: AES team up with Koc for a new 635-megawatt power plant, and Parsons provide maintenance for 2 Bosphorous bridges–a project that our foreign commercial service helped with.

One of my favorite examples is a GE plant in Pennsylvania that ships locomotive kits to Turkey, where they are assembled. Then, the finished products are exported to the Caucasus and Central Asia, where Turkish firms have a strong reputation and track record.  

Looking forward, let me state three areas where we can work together. These are all win-wins.

First, I think we can partner to reach more markets in the Middle East and North Africa–bringing more development and greater economic stability to that region.

I’m also excited about the new Turkey chapter of Partners for New Beginning.  Secretary Clinton highlighted this public-private initiative in her trip to Istanbul last year.

TUSKON and companies like Coca-Cola, Intel, and Cisco are all involved in this.  They are focused on areas such as women-and-youth entrepreneurship.

In addition, I believe that American technology can help meet the growing demands within Turkey – including sectors like renewable energy, energy efficiency, and infrastructure.

This is important, because we all know that when the Turkish people gain stronger connections – both to each other and to the outside world – they succeed and thrive.

But we do have some challenges in the future of our economic relationship. Again, I’ll give three examples.

For example, the regulatory environment in Turkey is not as transparent and predictable as it could be. When new regulations are put in place without notification or opportunity-to-comment, it catches companies off-guard.

In addition, we continue to have market-access concerns, especially in areas like pharmaceuticals and agriculture.

And finally, it is important to grow and strengthen Turkey’s intellectual property system to protect all of our companies and to foster more innovation.  Some U.S. companies have experienced trademark and copyright infringements as well as software and internet piracy.  

The good news is that Turkey is engaging more on this issue.  For example, I know that the International Chamber of Commerce held a conference on “Maximizing the Value of IP in Turkey” last September.  It drew top officials and business leaders from both our countries.

Above all, we want to work with our Turkish counterparts to help make the Turkish business environment more stable, predictable, and investor friendly. It’s clear that this will benefit both of our countries and all of our citizens.

In closing, truly, we have come a long way since our first political ties were established 60 years ago with NATO.

To circle back to the beginning of my remarks, after I did business in Turkey, I went back with my wife and four daughters. I have vivid memories of shopping with them under the tents, in the bazaars, and buying things from the merchants.

Today, we are finding common ground in foreign policy and global issues. We are finding common ground in economic growth strategies such as the National Export Initiative and Turkey’s 10 by 23.

And we are also finding common ground by sharing the rich history of each of our countries with our daughters and sons.

They are the people who will build our partnership in the years to come.  

So, let’s do everything possible to usher in a long and prosperous era–as the bonds between our two nations continue to grow in the 21st century.