Was this page helpful?

Remarks by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross at the American Turkish Council (ATC)


Thank you, General Jones, for that kind introduction. Thank you especially for your distinguished military service, and for your leadership as Chairman of the American Turkish Council. 

Thank you, also, to members of the Turkish-U.S. Business Council for co-sponsoring this conference. For 37 years, you have played an important role in promoting a strong bilateral relationship between our countries.

I am pleased that my Turkish counterpart, Minister Pekcan is also here. We had a constructive discussion earlier today. I look forward to our working together.

Thank you, also, to the joint, government-chaired U.S.-Turkey Business Council for your recommendations on how to improve our trade and investment relationship.

The Department of Commerce is implementing your recommendations on improving our cooperation in streamlining e-commerce and digital services. Dependable rules for the digital economy will provide both American and Turkish companies with the tools they need to reach customers and create jobs in both nations. Relaxation of Law Number 6493 governing digital payments would be a good start.

In 2018, two-way trade in goods between the United States and Turkey totaled $20.5 billion, a record high. U.S. goods exports to Turkey have increased every year since 2015, and goods imported from Turkey more than doubled from 2010 to 2018.

Earlier this year, President Trump and President Erdogan set an annual total bilateral trade target of $75 billion, an ambitious goal. President Trump clearly stated his desire for good commercial relations, and the hope that we can triple our bilateral trade.

We are off to a good start.

Last year, Turkish Airlines agreed to purchase 25 Boeing Dreamliners and GE engines. The value of these deals together is estimated at over $10 billion. More than 1,700 U.S. firms already do business in Turkey. Nearly 60 of those have their regional headquarters in Istanbul.

For these innovative American companies to succeed — and for them to hire in Turkey, and develop new markets, new products, and new technologies — the rule of law is essential. Transparency, market access, and the assured security of individuals from unjust or random detention are essential to continued private-sector investment in Turkey.

Already, total direct investment in Turkey by American companies is valued at $4.3 billion. Turkish firms have invested $2 billion in the United States, a record high.

We look forward to welcoming a Turkish delegation to our 2019 SelectUSA Investment Summit to be held June 10th to June 12th here in Washington, D.C. This event provides a unique opportunity for Turkish business executives to meet with economic development organizations from across the United States.

For American companies, Turkey is an attractive market of 80 million people. There is a young and entrepreneurial workforce. And Turkey is in a central location, close to major markets throughout Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia. With enlarged port facilities and free-trade zones, Turkey could become a major distribution center for products moving to and from three continents.

With its growing demand, Turkey was the 10th largest global purchaser of U.S. LNG in 2018 at $118 million. The United States Government continues to seek ways to support our partners in the Turkish energy sector.  

For example, the U.S. Trade & Development Agency will partner with the U.S. Commercial Service to bring two Turkish delegations to the United States this year.  The first, in July, will introduce Turkish power-sector executives to U.S. best practices and technology that can improve the performance and maintenance of Turkey’s power grid. The second delegation from Turkey later this year will meet American refining and petrochemical services and equipment companies that can provide leading-edge technologies.

Turkey has two substantial industries: food processing, and furniture. Both produce high-quality products that can be exported throughout the world.

Turkey already sells the United States $1.1 billion in food products; $63 million worth of furniture; and $1.8 billion of textiles, apparel and similar products. But these industries are too fragmented to be major global competitors. A consolidation, or rollup, of these industries — as well as pharmaceuticals — could generate far greater exports for Turkish companies. Turkey’s recent infusion of $1 billion into the equity of the banking system will be a big help to this sector.

The Commerce Department is also working with private- and public-sector partners to promote an economic environment that will expand opportunities for new commercial partnerships.
We urge the Government of Turkey to support the rule of law; reduce the barriers to trade and investment; and improve the ease of doing business. Our commercial ties depend on transparency; a predictable judiciary; protection of intellectual property rights; human rights; and a consistent regulatory framework.

We are willing to work with Turkey to overcome barriers to the effective operation of both U.S. and Turkish companies.

American companies improve the economy in every country in which they operate. For example, Turkey is spending 5.4 percent of GDP on health care. Leading U.S. companies could help assure that these funds are well spent. American companies can help Turkey expand and privatize its banks. This would free up government funds for other uses, and would provide additional credit that can be used by the private sector to fuel investment and economic growth.

American companies are good citizens.

They operate in an open and transparent manner. 

They are governed by strong American laws that prohibit them from engaging in any corrupt business practices.

But they need basic protections in order to operate effectively and to the benefit of the local economy. The foundations of Turkish industry and its culture of entrepreneurship are strong. We want to build on those strengths now and in the years to come.

I look forward to receiving input from U.S. and Turkish companies on how we can improve upon these strengths.

Thank you.