Remarks delivered by Ambassador Namık TAN 30th Annual ATC-AFOT/DEIK-TAIK Conference October 31, 2011
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my distinct pleasure to join you all here at the 30th Annual Conference of ATC/AFOT and DEİK/TAİK. Year in year out, this conference continues to be the premier event on Turkey-US relations in Washington D.C. and 2011 is certainly no exception.
I would, at the outset, be remiss if I did not express my appreciation to ATC and AFOT, as well as DEİK and TAİK, for their tireless efforts to make these annual conferences a success story, as well as their substantial contributions to the ever evolving Turkish-American relationship. For the 30th time, we are witnessing yet another successful conference.
As you know, we have just celebrated the 88th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Turkey. Unfortunately, this anniversary came at a time of great sorrow for us. The devastating earthquake in Eastern Turkey and the string of heinous terrorist acts by the PKK have, as a whole, been extremely unsettling, to say the least. Here, I must express my gratitude to the U.S. Government and American people, who once again showed their solidarity with the Turkish people at a time of great hardship. The outpour of sympathy was as amazing as it was unprecedented, and we thank you for that.
As 2011 – and let me say that it has been a challenging year - draws to a close, I am happy to report that Turkey – US relations are once again on an upward trajectory.
Indeed, in characterizing the state of play in Turkey – US relations, I will use three R’s: Robust, Relevant and Resilient.
Robust; because Turkey and the US are using their comparative advantages to work together to address challenges on the widest of spectrums; ranging from combating terrorism to proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; from bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan and Iraq, to helping Libyans transition to a steady state of security, from the Balkans to the Middle East and North Africa in helping nations aspiring for democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms to overcome their political, ethnic and sectarian difficulties and embrace open societies where everyone has equal opportunities.
Relevant; because we have together successfully overcome the strictly security and defense dominated paradigm in our relationship and remodeled this partnership into something new, something bigger that serves our mutual interests today. This applies across the board, on a plethora of issues that we must all focus on today and in the years ahead. When Turkey needs support to fight terrorism or has a devastating earthquake, the US is there. Not just in words but in concrete action. When the US needs regional actors to step up and take responsibility, and not have to necessarily lead every time on every issue while there is a global recession going on, whether in Lebanon or Libya or Iraq or Afghanistan or Somalia, Turkey is there. When there are challenges that require a collective, multilateral response is needed, like today in Syria for example, Turkey and the US are there, in the diplomatic trenches, working together to shape international responses to crises that cannot be solved unilaterally.
Resilient; because, while we have had our serious ups and downs over the past, we have, time and again, transcended our differences, as important as they were, to keep the bigger picture in focus and work to solve the many challenges we are up against. Let’s face it, while our shared universal values, like democracy, human rights and rule of law strongly bind us together, as vibrant democracies, by default and by virtue of historic and geographic reality, it is virtually assured that we are not going to see eye to eye on every issue. As in the past, the success of this relationship is dependent also in how we weather the bilateral storms that come our way from time to time and, in that regard, I must say we have done well.
So, I believe that in moving forward as well, these three R’s should guide us. Let us work to keep this crucial relationship Robust, Relevant and Resilient, in every field.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Turkey and the US are working on a very busy joint agenda. Other than combatting terrorism and similar asymmetrical threats of our times, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Iranian nuclear issue, the Arab-Israeli conflict, frozen conflicts in the Caucasus, the Balkans and the Cyprus question will continue, like many other issues, to require our immediate attention and engagement.
In addition to these concrete issues, the historic transformation and restoration we are witnessing in the Middle East and North Africa also merits our ongoing involvement. Needless to say, where the Arap Spring goes politically, economically and socially are questions that, for many vital reasons, concerns us all very closely.
In all of these important issues that are unfolding in the region we can broadly define as Afro-Eurasia, two actors are continuing to play a vital role: Turkey and the US.
To the extent that we work together to meet these challenges, we will not only strengthen our bilateral partnership but also help maintain and advance peace and security on a global level.
Turkey today is the 16th largest economy in the world and the sixth biggest economic power in Europe. It is a stable and vibrant democracy that is, nevertheless, constantly working to raise the standards of our democratic institutions and practices.
The combination of these two factors – rising economic strength and the stability and further improvement of our democracy – has increased Turkey’s eagerness and capability to build an environment of stability and prosperity in our region. In this respect, we are trying to achieve something that our Western allies have pursued in our region for decades. Turkey’s time has come to join them, side by side, in that noble and necessary enterprise.
Turkey has set for itself tangible targets by the time we reach 2023, the 100th Anniversary of the Republic of Turkey. The most important of these is to become one of the top ten economies of the world, reaching a GDP total of two trillion US dollars, receiving 50 million tourists per year and decreasing the unemployment rate below 5%.
In order to realize this ambitious goal, Turkey will no doubt need to create new and strong partnerships. In this regard, fostering its underdeveloped economic partnership with long-time allies such as the U.S. will be vital for success.
At that point, we have to admit that the Turkish-US economic and trade relations are far from reflecting their potential. We can take comfort in the fact that there is a very strong commitment at the highest level on both sides to elevate the level of economic cooperation between Turkey and the US.
The establishment of the Framework for Strategic Economic and Commercial Cooperation (FSECC) in 2009 was an important milestone in this regard. FSECC has created considerable momentum since its inception. The first ministerial meeting of FSECC meeting was held in October 2010 in Washington DC. The second ministerial meeting of FSECC is due to be held in Turkey soon. Since the new U.S. Secretary of Commerce has just been confirmed by the Senate, it is high time for us schedule that meeting as soon as possible.
The bilateral trade between Turkey and the U.S. continued to increase in 2011. In 2010, the trade volume exceeded 15 billion USD, while the volume might be around 20 billion USD this year. However, this is a highly imbalanced trade. This year, we are expecting around 15 billion worth of US exports to Turkey and 5 billion Turkish exports to the US. While all trade is good, there is an urgent need to balance this equation.
On the investment side, Turkey received 10.1 billion dollars of FDI in the first eight months of 2011. Only half a million of this figure is of US origin. More needs to be done to attract American companies to invest in Turkey. I believe the inaugural meeting of the Turkish-U.S. Business Council on September 19, 2011 was an important step in that direction. We need increased private sector involvement and business-to-business ties to reach our common objectives.
The main cooperation areas include, but are not limited to, energy, enhancing business-to-business ties, joint initiatives in third countries, innovation and entrepreneurship, working together to enhance Istanbul as an international financial center.
In this vein, it is important to recognize that mutual commitment at the highest level can only provide the necessary umbrella and framework protecting and encouraging private sector interaction. It is, however, mainly up to the businesses to carry forward the existing economic and trade relations. Therefore, I invite all businessmen, entrepreneurs, both in Turkey and the United States, to show more vigor to help us build the future we all desire.
I am confident that this year’s ATC Conference will help create awareness in the U.S. business community regarding Turkish companies’ willingness to partner with their U.S. peers as well as business opportunities in Turkey.
On the other hand, Turkish private sector needs to think big and up the ante with a view to doing more business with the U.S. I am very proud to say that the Turkish private sector is strong and very competitive. Between the years 2001-2010, our GDP has seen a private sector oriented growth of 55%. In this success, the faith and skills of the private sector, as well as the structural reforms introduced by the government played a major, locomotive role.
Today, while we may still not be a member of the European Union, out of every four white-goods sold in Europe, one of them is Turkish. Out of every 3 television sets sold in Europe, one of them is a Turkish. Also, following the USA, Turkey is the second country in the world where 11 different automobile brands are produced. The Turkish private sector is thriving in Europe, Asia, Middle East, Africa and elsewhere in the world, but they are far from reflecting their potential when it comes to doing business in or with the U.S.
While there may be real impediments like distance and other practical barriers, it is hard for me to be convinced that the current levels of trade are reflective of the real possibilities that are out there. It is time to go big or go home. It is a pity that while Turkey has successfully established a transatlantic link politically and in the security and defense domain, the Turkish private sector has not been able to make the leap across the proverbial pond. It is my sincere hope that this ATC Annual Conference paves the way for us to make real progress on this score.
Before ending my remarks, I would like to mention another upcoming important event in this framework. As you remember, President Obama hosted the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship here in Washington, DC April 2010. The next Entrepreneurship Summit will be hosted by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the first week of December in Istanbul. I believe that this Summit, with participation at the highest levels from the US Government will contribute to the increasing business interaction between Turkish and American entrepreneurs.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The bonds of alliance, partnership and friendship between Turkey and the US are as strong as ever. This relationship is robust, relevant and resilient, and it continues to be a cornerstone of international peace and security. By continuing to work together effectively to meet the challenges of yesterday, today and tomorrow, our two great nations will not only serve their own interests but also those of global peace and harmony. Turkey stands ready to shoulder any responsibility in this regard.
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