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Remarks by Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross at the 38th American-Turkish Conference


It’s an honor to be with you virtually for the 38th annual American-Turkish Conference. And I am pleased to welcome to Minister Pekcan, to our discussion today. I thank you for your hospitality during my visit to Istanbul last year.

A special thanks also to the U.S. Chamber’s U.S.-Turkey Business Council for organizing this important event.  I am grateful for all you do to promote strong economic ties between the United States and Turkey, a mission you have supported for 38 years.

Last September, I had the honor of traveling to Turkey for meetings with the Ministers of Trade, Energy and Natural Resources, Health, and Finance. During my visit, President Erdoğan and I also had an opportunity to meet and discuss the importance and complexity of our social, cultural, and commercial relationship.

1,700 U.S. companies operate in Turkey, and 60 firms maintain regional headquarters there. Majority-Turkish owned companies support 4,100 U.S. jobs, and in 2017, spent $4 million on innovative Research and Development. And respectively, American companies employ 78,000 Turkish workers. Imports from Turkey rose to $10.6 billion in 2019, up 3 percent over 2018.

However, while Turkey boasts a near $1 trillion economy, U.S.-Turkey trade volume only reached $20.6 billion last year. Moreover, after years of trade surpluses, the United States concluded 2019 with a trade deficit of $600 million with Turkey. Concerningly, U.S. exports to Turkey have fallen from $11.7 billion to $10 billion between 2014 and 2019.

Contributing to this are a wide array of tariffs on U.S. exports to Turkey, forced localization, burdensome customs rules, regulatory approval delays, and unfair pricing schemes. U.S. Companies are concerned about a lack of transparency in the public procurement process, an unpredictable judiciary, insufficient consultations with the private sector, and a complicated regulatory system. These trade barriers limit both our countries’ economic growth.

Notwithstanding, President Trump and President Erdoğan share in the vision of strengthening the U.S.-Turkey bilateral relationship as our countries work toward our mutual goal of increasing trade volume to $100 billion annually. To that end, removing obstacles to trade and investment will dramatically improve the bilateral business climate. We will need to rely on everyone here today to reach this goal.

With that in mind, and despite the economic challenges faced by both our nations during this year’s global COVID-19 pandemic, the United States is committed to pursuing more commercial opportunities with Turkey. And U.S. LNG exports to Turkey can play a key role in reaching our target of $100 billion in trade volume. As such, we are working closely with the Turkish Ministry of Energy to host a virtual LNG Business Forum on October 21st and 22nd this year. At last year’s forum U.S. suppliers had the chance to connect with Turkish partners and consider prospective business opportunities. I invite each of you to attend this year’s Forum next month.

Another collaboration we are excited for is the project preparation and partnership-building activity that the U.S. Trade and Development Agency and Foreign Commercial Service are providing to Turkish stakeholders to develop smart cities across Turkey.  As a part of this initiative, our governments will work together to streamline access for American companies’ most innovative smart city solutions, including smart grids, water delivery, and transportation systems.

The Commerce Department has also been working with the Ministry of Trade in the digital sector. Digital has proven to be a key engine of growth for our small and medium-sized enterprises. Data is the lifeblood of the modern global economy, and cross-border data flows are indispensable for companies of all sizes and industry sectors to access global markets.

On June 24th this year, more than 60 participants convened online for the second U.S.-Turkey Digital Dialogue to discuss various facets of the digital bilateral relationship, including data privacy and enforcement, cybersecurity, 5G, and blockchain. We are eager to engage further with Turkish government and businesses in the digital sphere.

Before I close, it is my pleasure to invite you all to participate in the Commerce Department’s 2021 SelectUSA Investment Summit taking place June 6-9, 2021, 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. I look forward to welcoming a Turkish delegation at next year’s summit.

America remains open for business and encourages your investment.  And the U.S. Mission in Turkey is ready and willing to assist you in any way we can.  We look forward to deepening our close economic and commercial relationship in the years to come.