Pennsylvania State Senator Mike Brubaker (C) with his Turkey trip’s organizer Sait Önal (L) and Stefan Peikert from his state’s trade office for Europe.
A state senator from Pennsylvania, a US state that is home to around 13 million people, has said economic relations between Turkey and the US have the potential to be much better and more improved than they presently are.
In an interview with Today’s Zaman in İstanbul, Republican State Senator Mike Brubaker, who was elected for a second term late last year, underlined that Turkey, as he sees it, is very open to American entrepreneurs to operate and do business with their counterparts in Turkey but unfortunately this potential is not being taken advantage of as it should be. “Frankly, there is just very little business-to-business relationships between the US and Turkey now,” he said. Brubaker, who also chairs the Senate Finance Committee in Pennsylvania and the International Commerce Caucus, was in Turkey as part of a 10-day trip co-organized by Turkish Cultural Center of Pennsylvania and Red Rose Intercultural and Educational Foundation. Accompanying him during the visit was his family and Sait Önal, president of both NGOs, as well as Stefan Peikert, director for trade and investment at Pennsylvania’s Berlin-based trade office for Europe.
Before meeting with Today’s Zaman in İstanbul on Thursday, the group had already travelled to Ankara, Cappadocia, Kayseri and İzmir. Their program included meetings with government officials and business people as well as Turkish families. “I am here to understand if there is a business opportunity here in Turkey and the message I am taking back home is ‘yes’,” Brubaker. Turkey’s economy grew by 8.9 percent in 2010 and posted another 11 percent growth, highest worldwide, in the first quarter of this year. He also summarized the purpose of the Pennsylvania Senate International Commerce Caucus is to ensure a ‘four-way win’ -- that is, a win for the US company and the company from the other country and wins for both countries and their people. What we do is attempt to bring businessmen together, facilitating their interactions,” he said.
As part of his visit to İstanbul, the senator met officials from the Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEİK) and Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON). “I met Turkish businesspeople and they are smart, savvy, they are very warm and hospitable, generous and gracious. I didn’t get any negative signals from the Turkish business community,” he said.
According to Brubaker and Peikert, Pennsylvania has the best international trade office among all 50 states in the US. The northeastern state has trade offices in a number of countries around the world including those in Europe and the Far East but not in Turkey at the present time. If Pennsylvania was an independent country, it would be the 18th largest economy in the world.
Brubaker’s visit came at a financially delicate time for his constituency because the state government recently had to cut over $1 billion in spending, most of which came off the welfare budget. “This is a difficult time for us economically. Now we are looking for places to cut spending, not increase it. But I will be recommending we take a closer look to grow our ‘on-the-ground efforts’ here in this country,” the senator said. When asked what else should be done do reveal what he called underused potential between Turkey and the US, Brubaker said he already has taken the first step by coming to Turkey and also inviting Turkish businesspeople and policy makers to visit his state. As part of his visit to Ankara, Brubaker also met Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek and he said the minister was very positive about visiting Pennsylvania to contribute to economic relations between the two countries.
Brubaker also said there is “undoubtedly” still room for growth in terms of political will. “What I sensed here is that Turkey is open to [do business with] Americans. But America for the most is still relatively uninformed about Turkish culture, ways and the Muslim faith. I think, when we can sit down across the table and interact in a mutual dialogue we can be open for business,” he noted.
When the issue of a lack of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the US and Turkey was raised by Today’s Zaman, Peikert said it does not play a major role in hindering commercial relations between Turkey and the US. For him, it is mostly about “the way you perceive each other,” so there must be awareness raising activities on both sides. Possible areas of doing business are, Brubaker said, food production and processing, conventional agriculture and selling seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. He also underlined that Pennsylvania is going to make an enormous investment in the field of infrastructure development. “Now we are looking for the world’s best infrastructure development companies and I am confident that Turkish companies can be an option here,” he said.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Pennsylvania Senator Mike Brubaker on Turkey trip, doesn't stop Penn Charter schools investigation