By Zafer Çağlayan -
Republic of Turkey, Minister of State in Charge of Foreign Trade
Whenever Turkey-US relations are being examined, trade affairs and economic dimension are shadowed by defense and politics-oriented relations between the two countries. Naturally, this was one of the matters discussed during US President Barack Obama’s recent visit to our country. As a result of the dialogues with President Obama, the obligation of supporting strategic relations between the two countries through advancements in trade and economic relations has been agreed on.
This goal is complimented by our government’s primary objectives and already established policies. Although the density of our political relations with the US is not equally reflected in the trade and economic sectors, it is an undeniable fact that trade affairs and economic relations are, through the works of the Undersecretariat, increasingly being emphasized.
In 2007, the US ranked seventh among the countries we export to, and fifth among our import partners. According to the data from 2008, the US remained seventh in exports but moved up to the fourth place as regards to our imports. As these data also reflect, the US is a significantly important trade partner of ours and this bilateral trade relation continously expands. However, the trade balance is tipped in favor of the US. While our trade capacity in 2007 amounted to $8.1 billion in imports and $4.2 billion in exports, totaling a volume of $12.3 billion, in 2008 the total capacity reached was $16.3 billion. However, of the $16.3 billion, nearly $12 billion was due to imports from US and $4.2 billion due to our exports to this country. This means that in the year of 2008 there was an increase of 46.9% in imports, while increase in exports was only 4.9%.
Despite this situation, it is observable that some of our exported goods still have an important place in the US market. For example, Turkey is the US’s second largest supplier of towels, third in tobacco, fifth in marble, hunting rifles, and home textiles, sixth in olive oil, and sixteenth in iron and steel.
Additionally, the US’s investments in our country have also reached significant levels. By the end of 2008, the investments of 929 active US companies in Turkey equaled $10 billion. This is an indication of US investors taking note of the advancements in our country’s intellectual and industrial property rights, as well as the opportunities presented as an aspect of our country’s geographical importance and its human power.
However, in the past year, as a result of the slowing in the US economy and the Turkish lira’s increased value, a stagnation has been experienced in our exports. It shouldn’t be overlooked that this pause in our exporting to the US will probably persist throughout 2009, during which the impact of the current crisis is expected to be felt further. Under these circumstances, we need to provide solutions to shift the course of this path.
Since the early 2000’s, Turkey has begun to implement an economic diplomacy that is action-orieted, proactive, and wholistic. One of the earliest examples of this approach is the establishment of the ‘Neighboring and Regional Countries Strategy.’ This was then followed by our ‘Africa Strategy,’ which was initiated in 2003.
Under this framework of our strategic approaches, when the US’s role in the world economy and the potential of our bilateral trade and economic relations, along with the current realities, are evaluated, it is apparent that there exists a need for the formation of special policies towards our relations with the US.
STRAYEGY FOR DEVELOPING TRADE
Along this line, our ‘Strategy for Developing Trade and Investment Relations with the US,’ which was started in 2006 as a result of a detailed and goal-oriented early prepartions process, will serve as an important mechanism in our efforts to vitalize our trade and economic relations with the US under the current economic conditions.
When this strategy was developed, the USs’ state-system was taken into account, each state’s unique social and legal make-up was considered, and a ‘state’ and ‘sector’ based approach was followed. Under the framework of this approach, targeted states are New York, California, Texas, Georgia, Illinois, and Florida; and targetted sectors are textiles and manufactured clothing, food, chemical goods, iron-exclusive metals, leather and leather products, electronics and machines, the secondary automotive industry, processed natural stone and ceramic products, furniture, and jewelry products.
A significant element of the targeted states is that they are located in different parts of the US. In light of this, a homogenous distribution is the objective.
NEW YORK HAS A SPECIAL PLACE
Among the selected states, New York has a special place as our primary trade partner in the US. Our exports to New York in 2006 amounted to $1.5 billion, and this increased to $1.6 billion in 2008. On the other hand, whereas our imports from New York were worth $1 billion in 2006, it more than doubled in 2008, reaching $2.2 billion.
Since New York’s economy is larger than that of several countries around the world, it also has a significant potential in increasing mutual trade affairs. To work towards making this potential real, the ‘Turkish Textile Products Fair’ and the ‘Food and Drink Sector Fair’ were organized in New York in the months of January and June, respectively, in 2008.
Another special role New York plays in our strategy is that it stands as a starting point in our efforts to realize the true trade potentials with other states in the US. Consequently, it has been one of our strategic objectives to direct our companies towards distribution centers that are outside of New York and less known by Turkish firms.
Numerous activities have taken place since 2006, with the partnerships of Turkish-American organizations in the US, Trade Consuls, Attaches, and Honorary Consuls, in order to strengthen the image of Turkey and Turkish products, gain American investors’ attention, and increase our exports. Trade committees, fairs and conferences, and introductory seminars in the US and Turkey are some of the activities undertaken.
Our country, despite the ongoing economic crisis, is showing maximum effort to realize its trade potential with the US. By keeping in mind that patience is essential in achieving this potential, implementation of the current trade strategy will also be followed in the upcoming years.
On the other hand, in a time period where even the most developed countries have taken recourse to support programs to increase their competitiveness, the role of the ‘Generalized System of Preferences’ (Genelleştirilmiş Tercihler Sistemi –GTS- in Turkish) on our country’s exports to US is important. In 2008, our country’s exports to the US, under the GTS, had a value of $962 million. Turkey is one of the most important users of the GTS.
However, it has been reflected in the US media that this system, which has been extended to be functional until December 31, 2009, could take on a different course that would exclude Turkey, along with Brazil and India. In order for our country to continue benefitting from the GTS, there have been certain undertakings by our Undersecratariat of the Prime Ministry for Foreign Trade, with the US trade offices. I also mention and emphasize, in all related dialogues, the importance of the GTS for our country.
For our country to get out of the current global economic crisis with the minimum damage possible; to continue to support, during this period, Turkey’s image as a quality product supplier in the US, and to advertise Turkey and Turkish products in the US market; and, as a result, to increase trade relations between the two countries, also by closing the gap that is currently to our disadvantage, our Undersecratariat of the Prime Ministry for Foreign Trade continues to carry on numerous activities.
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07