Turkish-U.S. Business Council (TAİK) Chairman Dr. Yılmaz Argüden answered our questions concerning Turkish-American relations and the TAİK.
What do you think about the future of Turkish-American relations?
The relations between Turkey and the United States are based on common values and ideals with regard to democracy, freedom, human rights, and free market economy. Turks and Americans are so committed to these values and ideals that they did not hesitate to fight for them at the other side of the world, namely Korea. It was the same ideals that fueled our cooperation in Bosnia, Somalia, and Afghanistan.
As is the case in most relationships, from time to time there are ups and downs due to differences of interests and priorities. For example, the differences that led to the 1964 Johnson Letter, arms embargo during 1975-1978, and the differences in the priorities in the operations conducted in northern Iraq led to some tensions between our countries. However, the devotion of the peoples of both countries to the same ideals helped us establish a very sound basis for cooperation and we have managed to overcome those differences.
For this reason, the foundation of the relations between Turkey and the United States is very sound. We should take two important global developments into consideration as we consider the future of the relations between countries. First of them is the increase in the mutual dependence of the countries. The destruction of the rain forests in Brazil has effects to the global climate. The SARS disease that originated in China could threaten Canada in a very short time after its origination. The increase in the number of the AIDS patients in Africa could become among the biggest problems of the world in a very short time. The huge increase in the demand of Asian countries could make other countries to endure higher energy and logistical costs. A terrorist group in a distant place of the world could commit attacks to the most powerful country of the world. It is for this reason that the countries sharing same ideals and values should increase the cooperation they have. Turkey and the U.S. share common concerns towards many regional problems and act in cooperation in the regions like Balkans, Caucasus, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Turkey and the U.S. also hold similar positions over such issues as the expansion of the EU and the NATO, and the strengthening of international institutions.
The other important development is that the relations between countries are becoming multidimensional. Civil society is taking an ever increasing role. The relations between the countries are no more solely determined by the governments; the role of the business world, worlds of academics and arts, and the non-governmental organizations in these relations is growing. Success in public policy making would be increasingly difficult, if one misses the meaning of this transformation. This is so, because the NGOs are instrumental in shaping the global standards, in the gathering and dissemination of the information that feeds decision making, and problem solving. For example, the sensitivity towards the environmental problems has been developed by non-governmental organizations. Important developments such as the ratification of the “Universal declaration of human rights,” prohibition of land mines are all results of civilian initiatives. Most importantly NGOs bring participatory democracy to life. Therefore, as TAIK we have much to contribute to the development of Turkish-American relations.
How did TAİK contributed to the relations between Turkey and the United States in its first 20 years and what are your plans concerning the future?
TAİK is a voluntary organization aiming to help develop the relations between Turkey and the United States. The founding of TAIK was encouraged by the former President Turgut Özal. TAIK has established a model for 67 business councils founded under the Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEİK), which was established by 9 important institution of the Turkish private sector such as the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodities Exchanges (TOBB), the Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSIAD) and the Turkish Exporters Assembly (TİM).
Over the first twenty years, TAIK held over 1,000 meetings in a bid to contribute the development of Turkish American relations. In attendance to those meetings were, Turkish Presidents, Prime Ministers, various ministers, prominent representatives of the business, and academic worlds along with the U.S. President, U.S. Secretary of State, various ministers, Speaker of the House and many members of the Congress and staffers, respectable representatives of American business world and speakers from think tank organizations. We have managed to inform over 10,000 attendees in these meetings. The meetings contributed to the deepening and spreading of the relations.
TAİK in its first 20 years also contributed to the important developments in the Turkish-US relationship. Among those developments were:
- Turkey’s counting among the 10 Big Emerging Market
- Improving the risk rating of Turkey by U.S. Ex-Im Bank
- Extensions of the textile quotas for Turkey
- Implementation of Appalachia-Turkey Trade project
- Representation of private sector in Business Development Council
- Representation of private sector in the meetings of the Economic Partnership Commission
- Establishment of a Turkey Caucus in the U.S. Congress
- Refusal of the recognition of alleged Armenian Genocide in the U.S. Congress
- Contributing to the opening the TÜSİAD-US office
- Making the ATC-TAIK Annual Conference in Washington the biggest bilateral conference in Washington
- Encouraging and supporting the American companies to invest in Turkey
- Encouraging the cooperation with third countries (Central Asia, Afghanistan, Iraq)
- Achieving a balance of the bilateral trade and spreading the trade across different sectors
TAIK believes that increasing both the volume of business and the number of participants in business activities between our countries will help deepen the sound relations between Turkey and the U.S. Therefore, TAİK is focusing on introducing the Turkish economy and the companies in the United States, and improving the Turkish-American business development opportunities. Following topics are among our priorities:
- Increasing the commercial and industrial cooperation potential
- Identifying impediments to the commerce and investments and lobbying for their amelioration
- Improving the financing capabilities
- Introducing Turkey and the Turkish economy in the U.S.
- Introducing the business opportunities of the U.S. in different regions of Turkey
- Encouraging the cooperation with third countries
In conjunction, the activities launched by the TAİK in its 20th year could be summarized as follows:
- Holding meetings in different cities of Turkey with the aim of sharing information regarding how to develop business with the United States
- Developing content for improving the understanding of the public about the depth and importance of the Turkish-American relations, establishing relations with the press in a bid to make information sharing more prevalent
- Informing the public opinion about the different aspects of the relations between Turkey and the U.S., supporting the research projects and presenting the success stories of the Turkish-American cooperation
- Assigning priority for business development activities in different sectors and provinces
- Providing updated information regarding the business opportunities between two countries by means of launching the web site www.turkey-now.org
TAİK believes the importance of cooperating with public and civil sector institutions, universities, and think tank organizations sharing similar goals.
Our main target is to contribute to improving the economic and commercial relations between Turkey and the United States. We believe that contributing to the deepening of the economic dependencies of our countries is the best way to harmonize the priorities of Turkey and the U.S. in many areas.