Turkey – A Growing Economy
Thank you, Commissioner Creighton. And thanks to Sam Kaplan and the Trade Development Alliance for organizing this event. I offer a warm welcome on behalf of the state of Washington to our friends from the Turkish delegation, and especially to Mr. Zafer Caglayan (ZAH-FAIR CHAR-LAY-ON), the Turkish minister of economy, whom we are very honored to have with us this morning.
I would also like to underscore a point that many of you may already be aware of but is worth repeating nonetheless – that is the incredible work that John Gokcen (GO-CHEN), the honorary consul general of Turkey for the state of Washington, is doing on a daily basis to promote strong relations between the Republic of Turkey and the state of Washington.
Over the years Consul General Gokcen has not only been instrumental in bringing Turkish delegations to our state, but has also coordinated visits by Washingtonians to Turkey so that we can learn more about the culture, people and existing business opportunities. In fact my wife and I were fortunate to be among those invited to tour Turkey through a program hosted by the Turkish Cultural Foundation in 2009, which I will talk more about in a minute or two.
Consul General Gokcen has also been spearheading many efforts to attract Turkish investment in Washington and vice versa. Beyond that, he has set up ongoing exchange programs for students and scholars between Turkish universities and the University of Washington as well as doctor exchanges between some of our more prestigious hospitals and medical institutes.
The Turkish Consulate has been a key sponsor of the Seattle International Film Festival, where a Turkish film won the Golden Space Needle Award in 2004. These are just a few things that have brought Washington State and Turkey closer together – there are many more.
In addition, I should bring to your attention that Consul Gokcen has taken on some new duties this year by becoming president of the Consular Association of Washington, a very active organization that includes official representation from some 39 nations. So a big thanks to Consul Gokcen for all that you do.
For those of you who are from Turkey and visiting our state for the first time, I would like to give you a brief overview of Washington state.
We are a state of about 6.5 million people. Unlike Turkey, one of the oldest countries in the world, Washington is a relative infant in the global timeline of political jurisdictions. The Washington territory joined the United States just 122 years ago, in 1889. Since then we have rapidly grown into a region of high importance from a global economic perspective, due in no small part to our strategic location and easy access to markets in Canada, Asia and Europe.
While it’s a little farther to get to the Middle East from here, we do have a world-class airport in Sea-Tac International thanks to ongoing investments in infrastructure improvements by the Port of Seattle and, of course, have tremendous import and export capabilities at our maritime ports in Seattle, Tacoma, Grays Harbor, Vancouver USA and many more. You have fine Turkish coffee and we are the corporate home of Starbucks, which has stores around the world.
You mostly likely flew here on a Boeing airplane built in one of our Puget Sound area Boeing plants, likely in Everett to the north. In fact Washington is not only home to Boeing, but is a world center for much of the aerospace industry.
You are probably using the products of another famous Washington company, Microsoft, on your computer at work and home and you may have ordered a book or two from Amazon.com, a company that also has its headquarters here. I am told, in fact, that Turkey has close relationships with each of those companies, which consider the Turkish population a very important component of their marketing endeavors.
We are known for our cultural attractions, such as the Seattle Art Museum, the Benaroya Hall performing arts center and the Seattle opera house, for the iconic Space Needle that serves as this city’s most recognized landmark. Beyond Seattle, each of our cities from small to large has much to offer in the arts. We are grateful for the diversity of our state, as evidenced by the more than 200 languages spoken by children within our school system.
Our state is especially revered for its natural wonders, for Washington is a land with tremendous rivers, lakes and coastal areas, our mountains and our beautiful, drier lands to the east that offer vast recreational opportunities.
We do hope you are able to explore a little, if not this trip then perhaps another time soon. We have world-class educational and research institutions here such as the University of Washington and Washington State University, each highly ranked in numerous disciplines such as health sciences, business and high technology. Partly due to this, we are known as a place with bright people and bright ideas. Our state therefore has a worldwide reputation for its strong spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship.
So with that introduction of our state I hope I am setting the stage for increased dialogue between our two regions on matters of culture, trade and cooperation.
Personally, I would love to find more reasons to visit Turkey again. As I mentioned a minute ago Linda and I were guests of the Turkish Cultural Foundation in 2009, along with Senator Jim Kastama and his wife Barbara.
While there we were immersed in many splendid sights and sounds of your land – museums, historic mosques and synagogues, amazing bodies of water, exquisite examples of the textile and carpet production that Turkey has been known since time immemorial, and so much more.
And if that wasn’t enough, the Turkish cuisine was some of the best I’ve ever had, period. Unfortunately I could only stay for the first week of our two-week tour, but Linda liked it so much she insisted on continuing on for the full two weeks. For a time I thought I might lose her!
Apparently we are not the only ones who think Turkey is an incredible tourist destination. Last year alone 28 and a half million people visited Turkey. Those joining the Turkey vacation tour organized by the Seattle chamber this October are in for a treat.
What we learned during our visit is that Turkey is a significant center for world trade with a highly educated, young and skilled population. Given its strategic location at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, and proximity to the Middle East and the Caucasus, Turkey has reaped tremendous benefits with this “Afro-Eurasia” gateway status through strong alliances with neighboring countries.
It has been a strong ally of the United States for years and that status makes it a friend of the state of Washington too. Turkey has a customs union with the European Union and is in the midst of accession negotiations with the EU.
Turkey boasts one of the fastest-growing economies in the world with about 1% of global GDP. In fact, Jim O’Neill, the Goldman Sachs economist who came up with the acronym BRIC for the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China has now coined “MIST”. This puts Turkey with Mexico, Indonesia and South Korea and Turkey as the next tier of large ‘emerging economies’.
We are excited that Washington state has so much trade with Turkey. Last year we sold Turkey $1.3 billion in aerospace products. Since 2009 Boeing Commercial has announced 79 orders 39 deliveries since 2009 to four airlines in Turkey. In addition, the U.S. government is expected to confirm the order of six Boeing-built Chinook helicopters for Turkey by the end of this year for their military use. (note: will be built in Philadelphia).
I mention airplanes but one of the longest-standing relationships between Washington and the Republic of Turkey has nothing to do with aerospace products, books, coffee or software. It has to do with candy.
We have in Washington, across the mountains in a town named Cashmere, a farm called Liberty Orchards. Liberty Orchards was founded about 90 years ago by immigrants from Turkey, who brought with them to America a wonderful recipe for “Rahat Locoum” or more commonly known as Turkish Delight, which perhaps is known to many of you. That recipe eventually led to the creation of Liberty’s first product, "Aplets". Today Liberty Orchard’s Aplets and Cotlets candy is marketed around the world. But, more relevant to my talk today, Liberty is the largest manufacturer of Turkish Delight, or Locoum, in the United States!
So perhaps it can be said that our state’s relationship with Turkey was founded in sweetness, but it continues to be sweetened in a number of important areas. While our export numbers tell us our trade is mostly tied to aerospace, we also export millions of dollars in Turkey in the form of electronics, industrial machinery, optics, agricultural products, sports equipment and more. I am pleased to report that the numbers of our overall exports are increasing every year despite these global recessionary times.
On a national level, in 2010 the U.S. Department of Commerce designated Turkey as one of only a handful of priority markets under President Obama’s National Export Initiative. Around the same time, our governor, Chris Gregoire, announced our state’s own export initiative with a goal of increasing the number of Washington state companies exporting by 30 percent and help 5,000 Washington businesses achieve $600 million in new export sales. It is my feeling that Turkey should certainly be a key part of our new emphasis on expanding exports.
Washington has some 8,000 companies currently exporting. In fact our state is the largest U.S. exporter on a per capita basis. Approximately four percent of Washington companies export, compared to a national average of one percent. One in three or four jobs in Washington state are tied to trade, either directly or indirectly.
So as a state of traders, we welcome new opportunities to export our goods and services to Turkey, as well as expand our imports from the Republic to make it a true bilateral trade relationship. We also welcome ways to work with you to expand our cultural and educational ties with Turkey.
The founder of the Republic of Turkey, the esteemed Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, has been quoted as saying: “Our great ideal is to raise our nation to the highest standard of civilization and prosperity.”
I believe Ataturk’s words are worth reflecting on today because it seems that Turkey is well on its way to accomplishing that ideal.
I see government- to- government and business- to- business opportunities with Turkey with great hope and promise. Now is the time to further develop our already outstanding relationship with the Republic of Turkey. It is my hope that everyone in this room can be a part of this. I thank you.