Turkish-US business council to launch before year's end

Published 20.10.2010 13:26

Foreign Trade Minister Zafer Çağlayan on Tuesday said 12 individuals to represent Turkey in a Turkish-US business council, established as part of the Framework for Strategic Economic and Commercial Cooperation, will be assigned in a week's time and that the council will start its work before yearend.

Two businessmen, Haluk Dinçer from Sabancı Holding and Emin Sazak from Yüksel Construction, have already been chosen, and the rest will be picked shortly, the minister said while addressing a group of Turkish reporters in Washington. Çağlayan also said The Coca-Cola Company CEO Muhtar Kent, whose name has been touted as one of the members, will not join the council but will provide support from outside.

The minister said they were planning to hold a council meeting before the beginning of 2011. Çağlayan is in Washington to participate in the 29th annual meeting of the American Turkish Council (ATC) as part of a delegation comprising Economy Minister Ali Babacan, Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül and a number of military and civilian bureaucrats.

The framework was initiated following a meeting between Turkish President Abdullah Gül and US President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., last December.

The minister said they had already asked the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB), the Turkish Exporters Assembly (TİM), the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen's Association (TÜSİAD), the Independent Industrialists and Businessmen's Association (MÜSİAD), the Turkish Contractors Association (TMB) and the Turkish Confederation of Industrialists and Businessmen (TUSKON) to suggest one name for each of the 12 sectors in which the two countries are willing to advance cooperation.

The sectors were decided with respect to the potential for trade between the two countries. Areas of business the council will seek to further cooperation in are motor vehicles, textiles and ready-made clothing, machinery (including electrical and electronic goods), chemicals (including pharmaceuticals), quarrying and mining, metals, food and herbal products, defense and air transportation, information technologies, energy, logistics and construction.

Çağlayan likened the framework to a "four-legged table," and defined those legs as "the opening of the path of commerce by solving problems, an increase in trade volume, boosting mutual investments and setting up partnerships to conduct joint investments in third countries."

The US has sent eight names already to represent itself at the business council under the framework and asked Turkey to hasten the process of determining the people from 12 different sectors to take the seats on the Turkish side of the table and commence work to reinvigorate trade between the two allies, the minister said. Reserve names would also be picked just in case to replace the representatives of 12 key sectors whenever needed. The businessmen in the council will serve two-year terms.

Elsewhere on Monday, Babacan also shared remarks on the Turkish-US economic and commercial strategic cooperation framework, which he defined as a mechanism with an eventual target of elevating economic and commercial relations to levels matching the cooperation between the political and security related affairs between the two states.

Addressing a dinner held in honor of the participants on Monday evening, Babacan said the council would bring new momentum to the bilateral relations between the nations along with concrete results. "For the first time, political protection will be valid in such an economic process," he said.

Turkey is an important emerging country and a regional business center, the minister argued, adding that US companies will encounter "tremendous opportunities" to reach out to the markets in the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, the Balkans and the Caucasus.

The US is Turkey's seventh largest export market and ranks fourth in its imports, Babacan said. However, Turkey's share in US trade is "extremely small" and trade between the two allies is far lower than the actual potential, Babacan noted.

"Long-term interests and a long-term vision must always reside in our minds. Conflict naturally exists in every healthy relationship, and if there is no conflict in a relation, it marks the presence of pressure in it. Therefore, we want to establish a series of very healthy relations on different areas with the US by constantly keeping common targets and values in mind," he said.

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