Speeches and Public Events
Speech to the Turkish-U.S. Business Council (TAiK) By Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone
Sabanci Trade Center, Istanbul, February 17, 2011
Hepinize tesekkur ederim. Cok degerli ve sevgili dostlar, yeni arkadasimiz. Yeniden Istanbulda olmaktan iki tane medya, egitim, kultur, ve Turk toplumu icin son derece onemli olan bu guzel sehirde olmaktan esim Dr. Ricciardone ile beraber cok mutluyuz. Simdi izninizle Ingilizce devam etmek istiyorum.
I like to say it is a very special pleasure to be back here, not only in Turkey, but here in Istanbul. I came especially to meet with the members and supporters of TAiK [Turkish-U.S. Business Council] and DEIK [Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey] for a particular reason, and that is to carry out the instructions of President Obama. If you will remember the words that he addressed to the Turkish People through your great institution of your flourishing democracy, the Parliament, he said that our purpose now is to renew the alliance between our nations and the friendship between our people. And the friendship between our people, he explained as he went through his speech, relies on just the work that you are doing. That is to say, we need to strengthen the ties of friendship in all fields between our people, going well beyond the still very important strategic official, political relationship we have. That means getting business people together from both sides. It is very clear from your government, from contacts with business people in Ankara, and now here, that you have a powerful and very worthy ambition to go from being the world’s 16thor 17th largest economy to being the 10th largest economy in a few years. We think that is an excellent goal; we applaud you for it. We hope you will succeed, and we would like to be partners in that success with you.
I may offer a note or two of personal comments in connection with your country. Some of you know I think that we have served here in the past. Marie and I came as very young people, as tourists the first time; I came back later as a young diplomat; we had our first child in Adana. And we developed a fondness for this country over the years. For us, it is something like when you have old friends and you haven’t seen them for a few years. You knew their children as babies, and you come back ten or 15 years later and, masallah, the babies have grown up and are adults. But if you are living with your friends, day in and day out, you don’t notice the daily changes so much. You see the complexities, the problems, but you don’t see the big leaps that are made over, say, a ten-year period. For us who remember 1977, when we first came as tourists, who remember 1980 -- our daughter was born September 9, and we remember September 12. We remember President Ozal, I was here when he died, when we shared assignments at Incirlik [inaudible] Iraq in those days. We came in the mid-nineties again; we have seen Turkey take big steps. Every time we come back, Turkey is more developed, economically, and socially more mature. Your democracy is stronger and more flourishing and all of you in this room as members of Turkish civil society can be very proud, I think, and take the credit for the building of your country in all fields. It makes us very happy to come back and see that Turkey really is for us living up to the dreams we heard of younger Turks, when we were young ourselves here with you. It is exciting; it is a very exciting moment in your history, and we are very confident in your future, the future of business internally, the future of Turkey, the future of Turkish-American relations, and our partnership together in all the fields.
Let me now spend a few minutes, and I’d like to have time for a conversation with the members of this esteemed organization before we all have to go out and do other business. I did come to Istanbul to meet with the business community in particular and also with other members of civil society. And I had a very great honor and pleasure today to meet the Chief Rabbi and members of his community and with the Patriarch his all holiness and with the business people here. I will be calling on his Excellency the governor. I will be calling on the mayor. I will be meeting other members of the community this evening and tomorrow before I must return to Ankara. This is just our first taste of this lovely city since we went away many years ago; we promised to come back as often as we can possibly find any pretext to do so.
Thank you again, Haluk bey, and your membership for offering this very important and warm occasion for me. TAIK has been a very important partner in our bilateral relationship for many years. It is not something new that Turkish and American business people have worked together to improve our trade and investment in both directions. You have done so much over the years. Your seminars that you had sponsored bringing business people together from both sides have resulted in millions of dollars in trade finance from the American Overseas Private Investment Corporation -- OPIC , as well as our ExIm bank. It has given great confidence to American institutions of government and trade in Turkey.
We are working together even in third countries. My last overseas assignment was in Afghanistan. And I saw how Turkish companies are getting in even there. You take prudent risks, and you are going where you find opportunities; you are fearless and you are sober at the same time and Turkish companies are working with American companies together there. Indeed, our new embassy in Kabul is being built by a Turkish and American company together. I was very proud to learn when I was there. So we are very proud of doing this together with you and thank you for your efforts.
There aren’t many other audiences that appreciate as much as all of the members of TAiK do the importance of our collaboration together, whether it is in European security or stabilization in Afghanistan or Iraq. As I have already mentioned, we see this organization playing a great role in the ambition of your country to triple the size of your economy. Why not? Your future looks very bright, and we are optimistic about it too. But we need a strategy if we are going to work together on this. We need to have a [inaudible] goal. I think that goal should be a much more intense network even than we have already established with the many Turkish business organizations and American organizations that are coming together. To that hand, I would like to congratulate Haluk bey -- Haluk Dincer -- for being selected as a member of the FSECC [The U.S.-Turkey Framework for Strategic Economic and Commercial Cooperation], as we call it -- the strategic Turkish American business council. This is not meant as something to replace or compete with the existing Turkish-American organizations, but it is meant to make sure that the voice of Turkish business and the voice of American business is heard at the highest political levels in both our countries. And that is what President Obama and Prime Minister Erdogan agreed on this in the past. We are glad to see this taking place and we hope to see it become very active and fruitful very soon.
I don’t want to spend all my time speaking at you. I want to spend time speaking with you. Let me just mention a couple of other points I’ve noticed in coming back and the things I understood from speaking with just a very few business people so far. Not only has the economy grown so much since we were here last time. But it has transformed quite a bit. Manufacturing was getting underway. The Anatolian tigers were already let loose when we were there; from our time in Adana, we came to know the Sabancis personally as well as industrially. And here we are, of course, in the Sabanci Trade Center. But you’ve gone beyond the early days of manufacturing at some of the lower hands. Now the Chinese are competing with you. They can undercut even Turkey, where they can have much lower labor costs. But Turkey is moving up the value chain. Turkey is taking better care of its workers. Turks would never accept the Chinese standard for your workers. It would not be dignified, your workers wouldn’t accept it, and you wouldn’t accept it. So you are moving up the value chain and becoming players on the world stage.
You notice even walking around in Istanbul or Ankara that Turk Mali now means high quality world standard of competition. Turkish goods are welcome in New York, in the United States, in Europe, and are competing with the best brands all around the world. You have international brands here. And even when we were in Cairo, we saw in department stores, Turkish brands. And we see them in New York, and this is all very exciting. But you go on and you go forward. Together we must do many things. We must work in the context of a strategic conversation to remove obstacles, barriers to trade. On each side we have to continue to increase transparency; we have to remove regulatory barriers to trade investment. We have to make sure that the regulations that we have advance trade investment and don’t inhibit it. We struggle with that; you struggle with that in Turkey. I think working together we will make great progress on all those fronts. We can point to an example: I was here before in the mid-1990s when Turkey had made a decision to open up its economy to competition with Europe. You were unafraid, and you realized Turkey could compete with European manufacturers and producers. You took a chance in opening up Turkey to investment from Europe and the United States, and you succeeded spectacularly. As you work more and more to conform Turkey’s standards of regulations to finance and trade to European Union ones, remember those standards are different from American ones in some ways, so this is not just self-interest for us. In some ways it might even disadvantage the United States if you adopt too many European standards. But we want you to open up to world standards, because we believe you will succeed. And if you succeed, we succeed as your partners and friends.
I’ve heard from many here today that you have an ambition to see Istanbul become a world financial center, not only a business center. Why not? Why not? You have all kinds of advantages, not only geographic, but you have political advantages as well. You are a democracy, a successful modern democracy, and you are working every day to make it more successful and to open up more and to protect the freedoms of individuals and the freedom of business people to advance business interest.
You are moving up in the knowledge-based economy. I was just speaking with one your colleagues now; you’ve made great advances in the health care industry, the American pharmaceutical industry. And the health care industry wishes to become partners with Turkey, if you are looking for major amounts of American investment that will produce Turkish jobs very quickly, I can’t think of any sector, although there are several important advances we make, any sector that would produce more immediate investment and Turkish jobs and American jobs by the way than the pharmaceutical sector. I was consulting with them before I left Washington. There are specific things we can do together to open up. And they are eager to partner with Turkish companies.
Beyond this, there is a wealth of international regulation and arbitration procedures. I have noticed from this group that you represent companies that are unafraid. They are willing to deal with those complicated rules of the game that apply to world trade and investment. It will be important to open up Turkish regulation to those world standards in order to produce more world investment and American investment here.
Turks are concerned as Americans are concerned about trade imbalances. And my country famously has a huge state imbalance with China, and yet we find the approach that we take is not to try to lower Chinese exports, but to try to increase our exports to China. There may not be much we can do other than try to erect artificial barriers to imports. They don’t work, they frustrate us; they distort the economy. Americans like to buy the best goods of the world at the best prices, so we are hungry for imports, including from Turkey. But at the same time we are trying to make our own companies become more competitive. I would very respectfully suggest that that should be the approach Turkey would take. Don’t be afraid of the imports, but concentrate on becoming even more competitive internationally in your exports. And as you do that, you find a willing partner in the United States to help you make contacts in my country.
I don’t want to give you a lecture. I am not going to give lessons of any sort. I am here to learn. I come back to Turkey each time living as a student of a fantastic experiment of national renewal that I have seen taking place over 30 years. And it has only accelerated since we first came here as young tourists. I will mention something else, though, because my wife is a scientist; I have my personal science advisor. She has credentials that show she is more educated than I am. She is a Ph.D. molecular biologist. So in our house we talk about science and science policy a lot. I will suggest to you that building those connections between Turkish and American scientists will also lead directly to advances in business that are science-based and knowledge-based, and education-based, so that is an area of particular personal as well as official interest for me. I met one of your Eisenhower Fellows here in business. I am a Fulbrighter. I would not be the American Ambassador to Turkey if it were not for the wisdom of the United States Senate, in particular Senator J. William Fulbright, a lifetime ago now, in setting up exchanges between American young people, students and professors and foreign young people. We have a fine and growing Turkish-American Fulbright program represented in Istanbul, represented also in Ankara. I was here with the president – rector -- of Bahcesehir University, which has a wonderful connection. Count on us, please, to focus on working with your young people in education, culture, and certainly in business as well.
I have notes of many positive examples; I met the CEO of Ford here, which represents American investment in Turkey, American export to Turkey, and Turkish exports back to Europe and the United States -- also a famous American brand. We have a wonderful partnership of General Electric, one of the most well known American brands with [inaudible]. I hope to visit the factory here in a few weeks when we inaugurate the Turkish production -- joint production -- with General Electric of local motor trains for use not only in Turkey, but for export again to Europe and at least possibly also to the United States. These are the kinds of partnerships that I feel very proud of and I hope you do too, and they make me very confident.
Ulker, which used to be a relatively small but important in Turkey cookie company -- when we were here before, now is Godiva in my country, one of the most well recognized brands that we have in that industry. We have many, many such examples and we hope to have many more.
Let me close, because I really do want to have a few minutes to listen to you. I will be glad to respond to any questions. You know I spend most of my life in Ankara, which is the political capital. If you want to talk politics, we can even do that. But I came here really to talk about business and talk of things together. And helping our two countries grow and develop people-to-people ties, produce jobs for Turks and for Americans and for our third-country partners as well, I know there are representatives of third-country business partners here as well.
So let me just close, Turk-Amerikcan dostluguna, isimizin gucune, turkiyenin gelecegine ve demokrasisine, Turk toplumunun oldugu gibi benimde guvenim sonsuz. Ve bu konuda cok iyimserim. Ilginiz ve bu sicak karsilamaniz icin sizlere cok tesekkur ederim.