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Remarks by U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to the American-Turkish Council

Remarks by U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk

American Turkish Business Council
Washington, DC
June 12, 2012

*As Prepared for Delivery*

“Thank you, Ambassador. Good afternoon, friends, colleagues, and distinguished guests. I am honored to join you today to discuss the growing trade and investment relationship between Turkey and the United States.

“Turkey is becoming an economic force that can drive both its own development and that of its neighbors. Since 2001, Turkey’s GDP has tripled, and its reach has spread far and wide, particularly in Central Asia and the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) regions. This evolution in Turkey’s economic stature is naturally reflected in increasing trade and investment between the United States and Turkey. Two-way trade in goods between Turkey and the United States has grown steadily, with a slight dip in 2009 due to the global financial crisis, from around $900 million in 1980 to over $20 billion in 2011. U.S. foreign direct investment in Turkey grew to well over $5 billion in 2010. And that investment flows to increasingly sophisticated activities, such as banking and manufacturing, for example.

“Still, as a number of observers have remarked in recent years, these are relatively modest economic ties, particularly when compared to the strong political and strategic bonds our two countries enjoy, and to the dynamic new Turkish economy. Our bilateral trade and investment relationship is growing, and I believe all of us – businesspeople and officials –can work together to bring it up to its full potential.

“That’s why I am very much looking forward to next week when I will make my first visit to Turkey as USTR. First, I will visit Istanbul to hear directly from local Turkish and American business leaders and stakeholders. These discussions will certainly inform subsequent meetings with my Turkish counterparts in Ankara. Under the Framework for Strategic Economic and Commercial Cooperation, we are looking to the U.S. and Turkish private sectors as the primary sources of bold new approaches to economic growth and development. We want to encourage the evolution of a more dynamic and mature economic relationship that is shaped less by government-to-government contacts and more by the organic growth of business-to-business ties through increasing private sector integration.

“Of course, realizing the great potential for growth in our economic relationship won’t happen automatically or overnight. It can only be achieved through sustained hard work on the part of both governments and businesses to reduce barriers and resolve outstanding trade concerns between us. For example, I know that many of the United States’ most innovative companies, such as those in the pharmaceutical and high-technology agriculture sectors, would welcome a more robust and open trade and investment climate in Turkey. Similarly, we recognize that Turkey has concerns regarding certain U.S. policies as well. That’s why we intend to look for every practical step we can take to reduce or eliminate constraints to two-way trade, investment, and business engagement.

“Another area that I think deserves more attention is the development of connections between American and Turkish small- and medium-sized enterprises. There could also be potential in linking more Turkish firms into the supply chains of American firms, and vice versa.

“There is also great potential to expand trade and economic integration on a regional basis. The events of the last 18 months in the Middle East and North Africa have suggested this is a new area ripe for cooperation between Turkey and the United States, given Turkey’s proximity to and expansive economic engagement in the MENA region. For example, both Turkish and American companies offer strong managerial and technological expertise, so we look forward to exploring ways we can enable Turkish and U.S. companies to work together as they build a greater presence in MENA countries.

“Turkey’s ability over recent years to put in place key political and economic reforms could also offer useful lessons to those in the MENA region who aspire to break from the flawed policies of the past. Therefore, we hope we can join with the Turkish government – both directly and through the Deauville Partnership process led by the G8 – to carry a message of support for reforms these countries can take to unlock investment and spur economic development and job creation.

“In conclusion, I must underscore that this is really a team effort on the U.S. side in every sense of the word. We are working closely with our colleagues in the Departments of Commerce, State, Agriculture, and Energy, and with agency partners like OPIC, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, the Export-Import Bank, and the Small Business Administration to ensure we explore every feasible possibility for boosting the U.S.-Turkish economic relationship.

“And I certainly want to convey special thanks to Ambassador Tan and his embassy colleagues in Washington, along with Ambassador Ricciardone and his staff in Turkey – they do tireless work keeping us connected and focused on moving the ball forward. Finally, I want to assure you all that we value the American Turkish Council’s longstanding commitment to improving the bilateral relationship and will always be open to discussing thoughts, ideas, and latest developments with you.

"Thank you.”