Kristin Najdi is a Senior International Trade Specialist at the International Trade Administration
Last week, I had the opportunity to accompany Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sánchez as he led a trade mission of 18 aerospace and defense companies to Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey. The trade mission helped connect U.S. businesses with Turkish partners to identify export opportunities, but also to strengthen the commercial and strategic ties between our two countries.
Strategically positioned at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East, Turkey is a high priority market for the United States. With a population of more than 70 million, Turkey continues to be a vital economic hub for the region—with real GDP growth estimated at 8.2 percent in 2011, making it one of the fastest growing economies in the G-20.
President Obama’s April 2009 visit to Turkey – his first overseas trip – emphasized the importance of closer commercial ties between our two countries and continues to reap economic benefits. In fact, total bilateral U.S.-Turkey merchandise trade reached nearly $20 billion last year – an all-time record – and a 34 percent increase over the previous year.
Here at the International Trade Administration (ITA), we take pride in playing a key role in making it easier for U.S. companies to do business around the world, including in Turkey. To support this effort, Under Secretary Sanchez spoke at “The Ease of Doing Business Symposium” in Ankara, which was co-organized by ITA. During his presentation he highlighted challenges and opportunities in the Turkish market, and proposed concrete reforms. He also held various bilateral meetings with his counterparts in the Turkish government to discuss ways of further strengthening our bilateral commercial relations.
Another key outcome of this trip was Under Secretary Sánchez’s announcement of the new U.S. private sector members of the U.S.-Turkey Business Council. The Council is made up of senior-level executives from the United States and Turkey and provides joint policy recommendations to both governments on ways to strengthen bilateral economic relations.
U.S. businesses on this mission—with their innovative technologies and services—are well- positioned to help support Turkey’s aerospace and defense sectors. For example, the mission included a world leader in the design, manufacture, and marketing of thermal imaging and stabilized camera systems; a company with a strong set of businesses specializing in global infrastructure and finance; and well-known commercial jet and military aerospace manufacturers.
Our mission delegation was especially enthusiastic about the Turkish market for U.S. suppliers seeking joint-venture opportunities, including expanding opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises in the United States to support the continued modernization of the Turkish Armed Forces.
We also focused on the growing civil aviation market. Turkey, with its strategic geographic location, is located three hours by plane to 1.5 billion people and $23 trillion in GDP, and Turks have increasingly come to rely on domestic and international air service over the past years. Since 2002, there has been a 372 percent increase in domestic passenger traffic, a 77 percent increase in international passenger traffic and a 153 percent increase in total (domestic & international) passenger traffic. Overall, 329 private airline companies operate in the Turkish aerospace industry, 17 of which are Turkish. These companies are creating demand for aircraft parts as well as safety equipment, training and management – all of which are goods and services U.S. companies are well-poised to provide.
This trip was a great success in many respects. It opened doors for new business opportunities for U.S. companies and continued Commerce’s high-level engagement with the Turkish Government to strengthen our bilateral economic and commercial relationship.