Turkish Business Cowboys in the U.S.

Simay Özlü Diniz*

Zafer Caglayan, the state minister for foreign trade of the Republic of Turkey, visited the United States with the ambition of improving Turkish-American economic cooperation and promote Turkey’s research and development incentives to the world. Beginning on July 17, Caglayan toured Texas, Illinois, Georgia, California, and New York for a week to find out ways to enhance trade with the United States. This article not only aims to applaud the minister’s achievements but also to touch upon the policies of the current Turkish government AKP.

Mehmet Zafer Caglayan is the Minister of Turkey and Member of Parliament of the current government AKP that has been in power since 2007. Caglayan was graduated in mechanical engineering from Gazi University in Ankara in 1980 and pursued his career in the aluminium industry. Before his appointment as the Minister, he was the president of the Ankara Chamber of Industry and the vice-president of the The Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey. He worked for structural and micro-economic reforms and engaged in lobbying activities. He is the president of two companies Akel Alüminyum A.S and Caglayanlar Alüminyum Limited. The minister’s dynamic character resulting from his business background and his friendly personality is influential in establishing relationships and networking for promoting economic cooperation. Caglayan has risen when he found the opportunity for using his corporate skills in the political arena after the AKP was elected as the governing party.

The primary goal of Caglayan is to introduce economic opportunities in Turkey to foreign investors and increase Turkish exports. Turkish economy has been improving since its establishment. According to the Turkish Exporters Assembly (TIM) Turkish economy has become the 17th largest economy in the world having a GNP of 750 billion USD(TIM Website 2010). Turkey survived the Global Crisis without any destructive effects and relatively small losses. The country has the highest growing rate in Europe with 5.8% average economic increase between 2002 and 2008. The national per capita income over 10.000 US$ has tripled since 2002 and the inflation is around 5%. The country has been industrialized especially in textiles, food processing, autos, electronics, mining (coal, chromate, copper, boron), steel, petroleum, construction, lumber, paper, and is rich in natural resources.

The CIA World Factbook states that although Turkey has improved economically between 2002 and 2007 through investment in emerging markets, the country has been burdened as a result of high current account deficit and external debt (CIA Website 2010). One of the key factors that is required for the development of Turkey is stability. In that respect, further economic and judicial reforms and admission to the EU are required to advance the already improving foreign direct investment (FDI). The stock value of FDI was at more than $180 billion at the end of 2009. There has been privatization sales in the country, that are currently approaching $39 billion. In May 2006, the Baku-Tbilisi – Ceyhan pipeline became effective to flow oil up to 1 million barrels per day from the Caspian to market. In spite of the global financial crisis of 2009, the Turkish economy remained robust due to its banking and structural reforms implemented when the country suffered a national financial crisis in 2001. The information about Turkey’s financial status on the website of CIA World Factbook ends with explaining the country’s need for exports and how the uncertainty related to policy-making discourages investor confidence.

“In spite of the global financial crisis of 2009, Turkish economy remained robust due to its banking and structural reforms implemented when the country suffered a national financial crisis in 2001.”

As the foreign trade minister, Caglayan aims to improve Turkish economic cooperation with other countries as well as the U.S. He conducted a trip to the U.S. in July 2010 to facilitate the economic relationship between the two country (World Bulletin Website 2010). The minister represents the foreign trade policies of the AKP that includes boosting economic activities in the U.S. as well as the rest of the world. According to initiatives of the Foreign Trade Undersecretariat, Turkey’s foreign trade target countries are the United States and China as well as many other countries. Caglayan said, the Turkish government provides great incentives for investment in the country. The Turkish minister describes Turkey as one of the world’s most vibrant and fastest-growing economies. He also mentiones that in spite of its dynamic economic potential Turkey doesn’t have have its place in U.S. trade and is trying to increase exports to the country. During his visit, Caglayan said, although the United States has an import volume of 1.6 trillion USD, Turkey’s exports to that country remains only 3.5 billion USD (TTACC Website 2010). He also added that Turkish construction industry, that has a business volume of 170 million USD in over 80 countries, did not have a part in the U.S. construction industry. The minister mentioned that Turkey’s next foreign trade destination is China after the United States, and he would conduct a similar visit to that country.

A significant part of Caglayan’s U.S. tour involved Houston in addition to his visits to Illinois, Georgia, California, and New York. Houston is the fourth populous city in the U.S. and is considered as the medical center and the energy capital of the world. In Houston, Caglayan attended a dinner participated by company representatives (TTACC Website 2010). Following the dinner, he met with executives of U.S. companies whose turnovers are around 1.2 trillion U.S. dollars in  Houston including Exxon, Conoco Philips, Westlake Chemical, JP Morgan, General Electric Oil and Gas, Port of Houston Authority, Schlumberger, Texas Medicam Center, Methodist International, AECOM, ForsterQuan, Greater Houston Partnership, Euroil, BP, Houston Airport System, Shell, ORR Textile Co. Ltd., Mayor of Baton Rouge/ Louisiana, Shaw Energy and Chemicals Group and Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce.

“Turkish construction industry, that has a business volume of 170 million USD in over 80 countries, did not have a part in the U.S. construction industry.”

The following day, Caglayan joined the banquet hosted by Texas Turkish American Chamber of Commerce and Houston Chamber of Commerce where he was decorated with honorary fellowship of Houston (TTACC Website 2010). As a representative (cultural vice president) of American Turkish Association (ATA) I also attended the luncheon and had a chance to meet Mr. Caglayan. In the program, Texas Senator Rodney Ellis gave a speech. During the luncheon program in which 300 businessmen attended, the minister conducted a live phone conversation with Turkish Airlines (THY) Director-General Temel Kotil and requested the THY to start direct flights from Istanbul to Houston to promote business (Turkish Weekly Website 2010). Caglayan wanted to present the Americans that Turkish businessmen are available 24 hours to work internationally and emphasized that they are fast and practical. The time will show whether he convinced Americans that Turks are trustworthy people and Turkey is one of the countries that they would prefer to invest in.

The recent developments in the international arena regarding the AKP’s policies on Israeli dispute and Iran raised the questions of whether Turkey is headed towards the East instead of following its Western policy that promotes the country to be a part of the West, especially the EU. With the purpose of clarifying Turkey’s position in the world, Caglayan briefly mentioned Turkish foreign policy axis has not changed and emphasized that Turkey gets along with Israel as well as the rest of the world. He also stated that today he is here because Turkey wants to promote its economic and political relationship with the U.S. and its face is not directed towards only one direction but Turkey is facing the world. In order to show that Turkey respects Jews, Caglayan visited the construction site of a synagogue built by a Turkish company (World Bulletin Website 2010).

Nowadays, one of the hottest debates on Turkey is whether the country is leaning towards the East or the West as a result of AKP’s current strategies. It might be possible that Turkish foreign policy axis has not changed but the country is responding glocally. Today, with the affect of global culture it is almost impossible for Turkey and other non-Western cultures to ignore the Western model development. In responding to this global culture the states construct a glocal culture by redefining their own identities and creating meanings. This glocal culture is much more in accordance with the countries’ social structure rather than imposed Western ideologies that are alien to their culture. Turkey is a unique case that is trying to democratize, maintain its cultural identity while preserving good relations in its geographic region, and pursuing economic development. It is most likely that balance, stability, and consistency are the keys for Turkish development which sounds easy in theory but indeed hard in practice. One of the most important developments in Turkey is the forthcoming referendum on 12th of September, 2010 that will determine the role of judiciary in the country. The outcomes and the following national status will determine whether Turkey will achieve the desired stability and predictability which will allow further investment in the country as proposed by Caglayan and AKP. PR


* Simay Özlü Diniz is Doctoral Researcher and Teaching Assistant at the University of Houston.

1) Source: Texas Turkish American Chamber of Comme r ce W ebsi t e h t t p: / / www. t t acc. or g/ component / cont ent /
article/ 2 -homepage-news/ 78-turkish – minister-meets-turkish-american – businessmen-in-houston.html


• CIA Website. Retrieved July, 28 2010. (h t t p s : / / w w w . c i a . g o v / l i b r a r y / publications/ the -world -factbook/ geos/ tu.html).
• Texas Turkish American Chamber of Commerce Website. Retrieved July, 28 2010. “Turkey aims to open construction industry in US”, “Turkish Minister Meets Turkish -American Businessmen in Houston” (http:// www.ttacc.org/).
• Turkish Exporters Assembly Website. Retrieved July, 28 2010. (http:/ / tim.org.tr/).
• Turkish Weekly Website. Retrieved July 28 2010. “Caglayan calls THY from Houston, says ‘Start direct flights to Houston’”. (h t t p: / / w w w . t u r k i s h w e e k l y . n e t / news/ 105099/ turkey -press-scan-24-july- 2010-.html).
• World Bulletin Website. Retrieved July, 28 2010. “Turkish Minister meets executives of top US firms in Houston” (http:// www.worldbulletin.net/ news_detail.php? id=61685).


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