Ambassador John Bass’ Remarks at Small Medium Enterprises Summit – March 12, 2015

March 12, 2015
Dedeman Hotel, Istanbul

As Delivered

Sayın Bakan Yardımcısı, hanımefendiler, beyefendiler, iyi günler. Bugün beni  buraya sizlerle konuşmak için davet edeceğiniz icin teşekkur ederim. Maalesef Türkçem iyi değil onun icin İngilizce devam edeceğiz. Next year, Türkce daha iyi. 

I want to thank you for this opportunity to speak to a distinguished group of Turkish business leaders.  I especially want to thank TOBB, TOSYOV (TOW-see-ov) and KOSGEB (KOS-geb) for allowing me to be here with you today to talk not only about investment, but also to make an investment in the United States relationship with Turkey and with all of you.

The United States and Turkey are great partners in many areas.  President Obama, Secretary Kerry and I place great importance on expanding and deepening economic and commercial cooperation between our countries. I want to focus on today some of our positive trends and areas of opportunity where I believe we can work together to benefit both countries.

The United States, like Turkey, believes that Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of the economy.  Approximately 28 million SMEs operate within the United States and among them are businesses created by my father and brother-in-law in California.  SMEs constitute nearly 99% of all businesses and account for 85% of all new job creation in the United States.  That’s not unlike Turkey where your 3 million SMEs, comprise about 99% of all businesses and SMEs create most of the new jobs in this economy.

Cooperation on SMEs was a key focus of the Economic Partnership Commission talks we held between our two countries in Washington just last month. In those talks, we discussed ways to eliminate trade barriers that will achieve a freer and more open market that will benefit all of our SMEs.  To that end, we are pleased that KOSGEB seeks to extend a cooperative agreement with the U.S. government’s main engine to support SMEs, the Small Business Administration.

Next week over 30 Turkish companies and trade and business associations will attend Select USA, the U.S. government’s premier event to promote foreign investment in the United States and a key opportunity to learn about new opportunities across the United States to grow your businesses and develop new trade linkages.

We are watching with interest The Prime Minister’s recently announced structural reform packages which has the potential to strengthen SMEs in Turkey and your brand internationally.  With respect to proposals to increase financing options for SMEs, provide more training opportunities to develop SME staff and clustering SME production we look forward to learning more details on these initiatives and how they will be implemented.  We see Turkey’s focus on inclusiveness and importance of SMEs as key drivers of growth and employment within a context of G20 and B20 leadership as the important contributions to promoting further growth of SMEs.

We support those goals for SMEs because SMEs play such a major role in international trade.  In the United States, SMEs account for nearly 98% of our exports.  Actually let me clarify that, 98% of our exporters not our exports but importantly International Trade Commission research compared the performance of SME exporters to SMEs who only focus on the domestic market found that American SMEs that export grow faster, add jobs more quickly, and pay higher wages.

The United States and Turkey have been friends and allies for over 60 years.  But when most people think about our relationship, they tend to think about military and security relations.  Our economic and commercial relationship has historically been comparatively smaller, and we believe when we look at the size and diversity of both our economies this part of our relationship is underperforming.

Now the good news is that economic ties are growing and since 2010, Turkish exports to the United States are growing faster than any other market for Turkey and the nature of our trade relationship offers a great deal of value for Turkey. Turkey uses 72% of U.S. industrial imports as inputs for Turkish exports.  And it uses 85% of U.S. agricultural importsfor Turkish exports.

Noe, we believe that our open and friendly market offers great opportunities for Turkish business and let me give you just one example of the great cooperation we have seen between respected SMEs.  A U.S.-based small financing firm partnered with a Turkish SME and worked with the U.S. Export Import Bank and our Department of Commerce to provide nearly $3 million in credit for the construction of a small geothermal plant outside Manisa.

American firms bring with them often the latest technologies, the best business practices, and most importantly, the know-how they can share with Turkish partners so that you can become leaders in new sectors of the global economy.

Beyond the large investments and transactions, U.S. companies also bring a culture of promoting innovation and entrepreneurial spirit that we believe is one of our greatest exports.

Now, all of you are proof that we have a monopoly in that area of course but we recognize as a government that a business friendly climate that fosters creativity, and rewards entrepreneurs who have the courage and vision to take risks, is critical for small and medium sized enterprises to thrive.

Some of you may be familiar with the story of Hamdi Ulukaya, the Turkish founder of America’s top selling yogurt: Chobani.  If you’re not familiar with him, he’s much like many Turks I have met: he is passionate about yogurt.  In 2005, he bought a yogurt factory in upstate New York with a bank loan backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration.  That $1 million loan provided him with 90% financing, a low interest rate, and a 10 year term and in the 10 year term of the loan he turned that $1 million loan into a $1 billion company.  Now Sayin Ulukaya attributes Chobani’s success to the fact that he never had to rely on external investors.  His original U.S. Small Business Administration-backed loan provided him the freedom to run the company the way he wants, without pressure from outsiders and that is the kind of Turkish-American entrepreneurial cooperation that we wanna foster and see more success from.

Another area where I believe we can do great work together is in promoting women-owned SMEs.  I am happy to see women in this audience but I hope there will be many more women in this audience next year.  As U.S. Secretary of State Kerry has said, “No country can get ahead if it leaves half of its population behind.” and we applaud Turkey’s efforts to increase women’s participation in the economy because we believe that will make a significant economic difference for your country.  In the United States, women own one third of our nonfarm businesses.

One of these women-owned businesses, NOVA Power Solutions, recently partnered with a Turkish firm to provide high-quality products specifically designed for your market.  They are providing power solutions and sources for the Turkish Armed Forces and branching out into other areas such as traffic signal systems and emergency command and communication vehicles. Giving women equal opportunity to become entrepreneurs will benefit everyone in this society, create a more dynamic and inclusive workforce, and keep to the subject that you are talking about in this conference help Turkey to escape the middle income trap.

Before I conclude, let me touch briefly on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership –TTIP.  As a good partner, the United States has been informing the Turkish government about every step of on-going negotiations with the EU.  I think it’s important to remember amid all of the press about this negotiation that  it is the most complicated trade negotiation that’s ever been attempted.  If it is successful, it will increase standards, lower barriers and tariffs, and create the world’s most competitive free market because of this complexity obviously these negotiations won’t conclude overnight or in the next few weeks and even as we begin to discuss  with your government ways that Turkey can align with TTIP we encourage your government to use this time to take the steps it needs to prepare for the more competitive world that TTIP will bring.  We strongly encourage Turkey to work to further strengthen the rule of law and to implement critical market reforms that promote transparency, the ease of doing business, and provide predictability that businesses like yours need to make good business decisions.  Now we all live in challenging times and you live in a difficult region that’s why our partnership on all levels and importantly our economic and business partnership remains so important and as President Obama has said about that relationship “Our nations have changed in many ways.  But our friendship is strong, and our alliance endures.” and I wanna wish all of you well in your business endeavors even as we continue to develop our strategic economic and commercial partnership between our two nations.

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