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Statements by U.S. Officials

Ambassador Francis Ricciardone's Remarks at ABFT Gala

Conrad Hotel, Istanbul - September 26, 2013
Ambassador Francis Ricciardone at ABFT (Foto: Asli Ersoy)

Ambassador Francis Ricciardone at ABFT

"As delivered"

Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone

Promoting American-Turkish Trade and Investment

Değerli dostlar, iyi akşamlar.  

What a great honor and pleasure to be with all of you this evening, thanks very much to the initiative of AmCham Turkey/the American Business Forum in Turkey, and the generous hospitality of our sponsors.  To ABFT President Serra Akcaoglu, I congratulate you and your new Board of Directors on an extremely successful and ambitious first six months in office.  Your growing membership, the presence this evening is a testament to the energy and the vision, and spirit of service to the membership that I’ve seen you all bring just in these few months your efforts together as a new team.  I congratulate you and wish you further success.

    I’d also like to thank and salute my friend and tireless advocate of Turkish-American trade and investment, Minister of Economy Zafer Çağlayan.  Geldiğiniz icin çok teşekkür ederiz. Cok büyük şeref verdiniz.  Thank you.  And Mr. Minister, we are all very keen, I’m sure you are going to speak soon about the results of your most recent visit to Washington and your meeting with our new Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzger, and also with our Trade Representative Froman. Together we will redouble our efforts to exploit the opportunities that lie before us to grow trade and investment between our two countries, with each other and with our partners in Europe and well beyond.

We are especially lucky to have here my fellow Dartmouth College alumnus, Jeff Immelt, one of the great leaders of American industry who has kept General Electric at the forefront of global innovation, and all the advancements in human health and well-being and prosperity that go along with innovation and entrepreneurship.  Jeff, you have seen how enthusiastically over these years the Turks have embraced your own keen personal interest, but General Electric’s branding, contributions, interests in this country and your investments and how much they want more.  They lap it up and want more, so we all look forward to your launching of the Innovation Center tomorrow and congratulations on the signing that many of us witnessed just a little while ago, the new partnership with TEI, TAI, SSM, and the others.  We at the American Embassy really admire your team here and you know how good they are.  Canan, it’s been a pleasure partnering with you even if you did take one of our best employees away from us.  We’re all very proud of Aysem being your Head of Government Relations.  We know how terrific she is and we’re proud when our people do well.

And Chuck Hunter’s already been introduced, our new Consul General here.  For all of you in the room, please look upon him as “me” and “us” and the leader of the American team here in Istanbul, with Manoj and Jeff and the rest of us who are totally dedicated to boosting American-Turkish trade and investment.  Chuck, thanks for joining us.  Congratulations on the best assignment of your career. 

Growing Role of Business in Our Relations

We’re approaching the 90th anniversary of this great Republic of Turkey, so why don’t I open with a quote from the founder of this wonderful republic: “Türk milleti Amerika milleti hakkında derin ve kuvvetli bir muhabbet hisseder.”  [“The Turkish people feel a deep and powerful affection for the American people,” Ataturk said.]  From the warmth Marie and I have felt from our Turkish friends over three decades now—more than that—I can assure you that those words of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk resonate and that feeling is as strong as ever in our experience.  It’s also deeply mutual, as Minister Caglayan and Prime Minister Erdogan felt when they were in Washington just this past May.  (And of course, Mr. Caglayan was there just a few weeks ago.)  I hope you felt that, Mr. Minister.  Your Prime Minister felt the warmth, the interest—the intense interest—respect, and affection for your country.  And it comes from events like this and activities that are represented around here.  Contact between Turks and Americans always leads to a chemistry and a magic that brings us closer together.  And this friendship is really what has built the multi-dimensional partnership that we are enjoying today. 

Of course, our strategic shared interests also form a part of the enduring foundation of this partnership and our relations.   To understand just how strongly our national interests coincide, I won’t give you a great seminar this evening.  Instead, I commend to you the speeches of my president and the president of Turkey in New York just in the past couple of days.  If you lay them side-by-side, you will see how strongly, how honestly, each spoke: no white-washing, no sugar-coating the difficulties of our world, but just how much we share purposes, values, how close they are and how much scope there is for continuing our great alliance and partnership.  And this is all very consistent with President Obama’s words also directly to the Turkish people.  In his very first trip outside the United States as President, he came to Turkey and he spoke with the Turkish people by addressing the Parliament.  And he said that our purpose—he called on us to have as a purpose—to renew the friendship between our peoples, the alliance between our nations, the friendship between our peoples.  In the first six years he’s had in office, the President has demonstrated that he sees Turkish and American business as playing a fundamental role in that renewal of the friendship between our peoples.   

And that’s, ladies and gentlemen, the purpose that brought us all together here this evening under the aegis of the ABFT.

Since I returned to Turkey just a couple of years ago, I’ve seen more and more American businesses opening, coming here (new to market companies), and others, like Citi, like General Electric, expanding their operations here in ways you heard Jeff Immelt and Canan describe.  It doesn’t surprise me one bit; it delights me.   Turks say, “Küçük suda büyük balık olmaz” [You won’t find big fish in small ponds.]  And it’s no secret anymore, Mr. Minister, since your administration came to office 11 years ago, that everyone now sees Turkey as a big pond, a big player with big opportunities.  Your government really has built on giants who came before.  You and I have spoken of our shared admiration for the great President Marhum Turgut Ozal and his vision that Turkey could compete, his confidence that you could play in the world and that you could open up to the world.  Your government has carried that forward, so I congratulate you on that.  You’ve brought Turkey not just to be one of the top 20 economic players in the world, but a proud democracy as well. 

Jeff and Canan, Serra and Bill Mills, just let me briefly touch on your companies as examples of what I’m talking about, how forward-looking American companies have found success here and contributed to Turkey’s success.  Each of your companies recognized Turkey’s potential long before it was fashionable, long before anybody thought—I won’t say “anybody”—“others” thought that Turkey could even aspire one day to make to the G-20.  You had that foresight, your companies did, some other American companies did, a few Turkish companies did.  General Electric was one of the first foreign industrial ventures in Turkey, speaking about the great plans you’ve done now, you didn’t mention that you started with a light bulb factory in 1948.  That’s the cave era compared to where Turkey is now, where General Electric’s investments are now, and where they are going.  You diversified into so many sectors of technology, services, finance all around the world and in this country.  Citi started financing infrastructure development projects here in 1975 when Turkey was a developing country, when the Turkish economy was a small fraction of the size it is now, not even a reflection of its complexity now, nothing like the investor-friendly climate that the government of Turkey today has made it into, nothing like the dynamic free market that we see it becoming now.  As Turkey looks to build hospital campuses, a third Bosphorus bridge, and one of the largest airports in the world, American investors and providers of the world’s most competitive and sophisticated technologies and services, like General Electric, like Citi, like the other members of AmCham Turkey/ American Business Forum in Turkey, are all perfectly positioned to exploit those opportunities to come.   

Our two governments, too, if I may put in a word for the Minister and myself and the institutions we represent, have worked hard to remove the obstacles to trade and investment.  And we’ve got much more work to do.  We both know it.  We’ve had a fair amount of success: we’re really delighted to see many Turkish firms opening offices in the United States, and to see Turkish brands becoming available to Americans.  We want to welcome, Mr. Minister, even more Turkish exporters and investors and brands to our country.  And I assure you of that.  I’m sure you heard that from Mike Froman.  I’m sure you heard that from Penny Pritzger.  We believe that more exports of Turkey to the US will bring more investment, and vice versa.  More Turkish investment will bring more exports.  We hope a good many Turks will participate in Invest USA, coming up very soon.  Thanks for your own personal efforts, your visits to the United States, and your conversations with us.  In 2011, my first year here, we witnessed a record-breaking year for American exports to Turkey and we were all delighted.  And the next year, 2012, we saw Turkey break records for exports to the United States.  Overall, in these past four years, Turkish-American overall trade has grown by 75%.  Nonetheless, Zafer Bey,  we share your ambition to see much more growth in our business relationship.  And we share your confidence that the future of our business partnership is bright.

Looking Forward

Whether we are businesspeople or government officials, we all here are keenly attuned to what’s going on around us, whether here in Turkey or in the region.  We all know that Turkey and its region have witnessed intense and stressful developments in the past several months alone, but a critical requirement for successful, long-term investors is the ability to see current events in their strategic perspective.   For example, the protests here this past summer attracted international headlines as great numbers of Turkish people on all sides of the political spectrum peacefully and lawfully exercised their rights of assembly and freedoms of speech and expression.  Longtime American observers of Turkey, like the companies represented here, most of them like myself, know that the excesses and violations of a few did not and cannot shake the strength of the rule of law and the steady advancement of Turkish democracy.  Nor have the violent conflicts beyond Turkey’s borders threatened Turkey’s stability and prosperity.  Indeed the tragic, painful civil war and suffering in Syria have only underlined the value and strength of the Turkish-American defense alliance.  For over six decades, the NATO alliance has constituted one of Turkey’s gilt-edged assets, offering confidence to Turkish and foreign investors alike.

So despite the short-term volatility—maybe it’s going to be constant volatility in the world; let’s get used to it—despite that, that we’ve seen in Turkey, in this market, and in the region, I share the confidence of Turkish and American business partners that Turkey’s long-term fundamentals remain solid and full of promise—challenges, but promising.  In business, however, there can be no room for complacency, nor in democratic politics.  Tonight it would be especially appropriate, I think, to quote one of General Electric’s founders, one of the Americans who most inspires young people today, Thomas Edison, who said, “Discontent is the first necessity of progress.”  So, let’s all take due pride in what we are accomplishing, what we have accomplished as Turkish and American business partners, as two governments, but let us never be content.  Much remains for us to do if we are to realize our shared ambitions and potential.  Our Embassy team, which spans from Ankara to Istanbul, but also Izmir and Adana, where we have a presence—a trade promotion, a business promotion presence—we will continue consulting, collaborating, and cooperating intimately with AmCham/ABFT, with the American and Turkish companies represented here, those you wish to attract here still, and with all of you, Mr. Minister, and your colleagues in your Government.   In particular, Zafer Bey, as you heard in Washington, you have our very strong commitment to work in the closest cooperation with you, with Turkey, as the United States and Europe negotiate the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. This is a very exciting prospect that promises greatly to boost prosperity both in Europe and in the Americas.  And I know Turkey is going to be a beneficiary of that as well.

Conclusion

So let me close by repeating my appreciation: Serra and the board, to all of you for bringing us together this evening.  Thank you to the generosity of our sponsors.  I offer you my warmest congratulations on your ninth anniversary and looking ahead to your tenth year beginning in January.   I hope all the business representatives here, if you’re not already a member of AmCham/ABFT, that you join this great and growing and renewing institution in becoming a powerful voice for American business in Turkey, and with Turkey, for the highest global standards of business practices, for the friendship and cooperation and shared prosperity between Turkey and the United States of America.  Başarılarınızın devamını dilerim. [I wish you continued success.]  Thank you very much.