Turkey, US seek new era in bilateral trade ties
The first ministerial level meeting of the Framework for Turkish-US Strategic Economic and Trade Cooperation took place yesterday in Washington. During the meeting – co-chaired by Deputy Prime Minister for the Economy Ali Babacan and State Minister for Foreign Trade Zafer Caglayan from Turkey, as well as US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and US Trade Representative Ron Kirk – a US-Turkish Business Council, a forum for Turkish and US businesspeople to meet regularly, was also established. Speaking at a joint press conference afterwards, Locke said relevant officials from both countries are seeking joint venture opportunities in such areas as energy, commerce and investment. He also called Turkey a friend, critical ally, and important partner for the US. Stating that Turkey has one of the world's fastest-growing economies, Kirk stressed the significant untapped trade potential between Turkey and the US. The current bilateral trade volume falls short of that potential, he said. For his part, Babacan said the two countries should have a busy slate of trade and investment cooperation, just like their intensified political cooperation. Babacan also said the second ministerial-level meeting is planned to take place in Turkey. Asked about Turkey improving trade ties with China, Babacan said Turkey has a multifaceted foreign trade policy, adding that signing trade deals with China poses no obstacle to the development of Turkish-US trade ties. Also speaking to reporters, Caglayan said Turkey and the US turned a new page in bilateral trade ties with the first ministerial-level meeting. Echoing Kirk's remarks on the insufficient bilateral trade volume, Caglayan said that they had reached an agreement during the meeting to boost this figure. Caglayan also said that they had discussed certain trade-related problems between the two countries, from the US requiring visas of Turkish businesspeople to hurdles keeping Turkish agricultural products out of US markets, as well as US concerns about Turkey's pharmaceutical sector and problems with US genetically modified (GM) food reaching Turkish markets. Asked whether they had discussed UN and US sanctions targeting Iran's controversial nuclear program, Caglayan said the subject hadn't come up. Stressing Turkey's need to boost its trade ties worldwide, Caglayan said, "Turkey's share of US imports, the world's biggest import market, is only two per thousand. We're not happy with this." During the meeting, a memorandum of understanding on direct foreign investments programs was also signed, with both sides pledging more efforts to develop cooperation between small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).