On Feb. 7, the Jackson School of International Studies and the Trade Development Alliance in Seattle hosted a panel discussion on Turkey with experts on Turkey’s overall business environment as well as the aerospace, energy, infrastructure and commercial sectors. The discussion was a follow-up program to a forum held in Washington, D.C., in May 2012.
Jackson School Director Reşat Kasaba, who grew up in Turkey, opened the session with a note of optimism, contrasted with a “lost decade” in the ‘90s. Kasaba has been in the United States for 30 years. “For most of these 30 years, talking about Turkey was quite depressing,” he said. But the future may be more predictable and manageable, he said.
George Gavrilis, executive director of the Hollings Center for International Dialogue, said Turkey saw 8 percent growth in 2011 and pointed to the rise of ATMs, recently nonexistent, as a visually telling aspect of the transformation in Turkey.
Gavrilis credited Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as well as changes in the 1980s under Prime Minister Halil Turgut Özal, which laid the groundwork for the privatization of many state enterprises. He said the development of small and medium enterprises in Turkey have also helped to grow the economy.
Gavrilis added that Turkey is an important leader in the Middle East because of its relative stability in the region. He was specifically concerned about the crisis in Syria, and how Turkey will deal with the increasing conflict nearby.
Zeynep Yazicioglu, Assistant Commercial Attaché, Turkish Republic of Turkey, said investment in Turkey has been growing rapidly because of confidence in the country’s economy. Companies such as Coca-Cola, Microsoft and GE have already located their regional headquarters there, she said.
Greg Pepin, recently retired after serving as the vice president responsible for coordinating all Boeing activities and efforts in Turkey from 1999 to October of 2012, said there are a number of things that have made Turkey attractive to business. Since Özal opened up the economy 30 years ago, he said, state-owned enterprises have been privatized and consumers have more purchasing power. The government also promotes free trade zones.
Rick Lorenz, a senior lecturer at the Jackson School, talked about challenges Turkey faces regarding energy policy and the environment. The Port of Ceylon is a strategic location between oil supply and demand centers, Lorenz said, and the BTC pipeline carries much of the world’s oil.
Lorenz said there is also potential for renewable energy, but that government restrictions limit what can be done. Climate change could also affect the Euphrates-Tigris Basin, Lorenz said, but Turkey is confident it can manage climate change internally.
John Gokcen, Honorary Consul, Republic of Turkey, discussed Turkey’s relationship with the West and opposition Turkey has faced to EU membership.
By Kristina C. Bowman, email@example.com