Seeking to up exports to US after Obama visit


Hurriyet (Turkey)
by Selma Şimşek Bektaş – Referans
April 10, 2009

ISTANBUL – A new era in Turkish-US economic relations are about to begin, exporters hope. Leaders of the business world are encouraged and confident that the volume of Turkey’s exports to the USwill increase significantly in the short term

Following U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit, Turkey’s business world has turned its focus on the government, waiting for positive news.

The business world, which is unable to sell products due to rising costs and currency volatility, is awaiting new opportunities to increase exports to the US.

Obama’s visit enabled exporters to put the Qualified Industrial Zones, or NSB, project back on the agenda. Although the NSB project has been part of the government’s agenda for the past 10 years, no steps have been taken to implement the project so far.

As Obama’s visit helps increase hope for bilateral relations, exporters are seeking ways to obtain an advantage by paying zero customs tax for their exports to the United States, via an NSB that would be established on the border of northern Iraq.

"Establishing the NSB will be the most important step toward increasing Turkey’s exports to the U.S.," said İsmail Gülle, Istanbul Textile and Raw Materials Exporters’ Union, or İTHİB, chairman. "[An NSB] could help Turkey regain a chance to grab investment opportunities it has lost to Egypt and Jordan. In the case of constructive development on the issue then earning an additional export volume of $1 billion would not be just a dream for our industry anymore."

Obama’s words on a more peaceful era was near could be interpreted as an indication of an improvement in trade , according to Mehmet Büyükekşi, Turkish Exporters’ Assembly, or TİM, chairman. "Especially an image of being a terror-free Muslim country would help Turkey become a role model for the Middle East," said Büyükekşi, adding that a stronger Turkey would translate into increasing trade figures. If an NSB project is approved, then trade between the two countries will rise significantly, according to Büyükekşi. "We have relayed our request to the Prime Minister. The talks over the issue may start soon."

"This has been a very productive visit for Turkey," said Ahment Nazif Zorlu, Zorlu Holding chairman. "We would benefit a lot from a deal that would enable us to export to the U.S. without paying 20 percent customs tax. Industry representatives should continue holding talks with officials. "

The United States is expected to adopt further protective policies due to the impact of the global crisis, according to Turkish business people. Therefore, they request that the U.S. considers signing a free trade agreement with Turkey, similar to those already in place between the U.S. and Canada, Jordan, Chile, Singapore and Israel.

Uğur Terzioğlu, Turkish-American Business Association, or TABA, chairman, said he has full confidence that the process to improve trade relations would move in the right direction. Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reached an agreement on direct and indirect investments, he said.

The NATO Summit and Obama’s visit to Turkey have confirmed the country’s importance in establishing peace, according to the Turkish Industrialists’ And Businessmen’s Association, or TÜSİAD. A new page has been turned in Turkey-U.S. relations, said TÜSİAD in a statement. This new level of collaboration between the two allies could make valuable contributions to world peace, TÜSİADsaid.

Galip Sukaya, chairman of the American Business Forum in Turkey, said Obama’s message explained the need for bilateral collaboration to overcome the crisis. "Turkey’s trade volume with the U.S. is so low that it may be considered funny," Sukaya said.

"U.S.-based pharmaceutical companies can be directed toward research and development investments in Turkey," said Hikmet Tanrıverdi, Istanbul Ready Wear and Apparel Exporters’ Union, or İHKİB, chairman. "There is a need for either setting up an NSB zone or inking a free trade deal."

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