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US Consul General Kilner: "Bilateral Trade Should be Bigger"

ImageThe first and the 16th largest economies in the world should have better trade relations, said US Consul General Scott Kilner, who assumed his duties in İstanbul in September 2010. “Bilateral trade is roughly $11 billion in both directions. It should be a lot bigger than that for the first largest and the 16th largest economies in the world. Turkish trade with a number of European countries, and now with Iraq is bigger than with the US,” Kilner told Sunday’s Zaman. Kilner referred to US President Barack Obama, Turkish President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s commitment for setting up the framework for an increase in trade relations.

The trade volume between the two countries reached almost $13 billion in 2010, the flow is in the US’s favor as Turkey’s imports from the US are more than double the volume of its exports to the country. In 2009, US exports to Turkey were $7.09 billion while imports from Turkey were $3.66 billion, bringing total bilateral trade to $10.75 billion.


“Governments just set the framework in which private companies operate. We can’t create this trade or investment, but we can make it easier. At the policy level, we have high level exchanges and sort through obstacles. The real work is facilitating the work of trade delegations in both directions and familiarizing ourselves with each other’s markets,” Kilner said.

Expressing admiration for the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists’ (TUSKON) achievements by gathering thousands of foreign businessmen from all around the world with Turkish companies and hence bringing forward opportunities to open up to global markets, Kilner said it is an organization that did not even exist when he was last in Turkey.

He adds that they are not the only ones as there are others working toward the same goal, like the Turkish-American Businessmen’s Association (TABA/AmCham), Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSİAD) and the Independent Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (MÜSİAD). “There is no shortage of them here. We just need to spend more energy on smaller and medium-sized businesses who want to work in each other’s countries. The bigger companies usually take care of themselves,” he said.

‘Turkey’s entry into EU is more compelling than ever’

Kilner, who held a series of positions in the Department of State’s Bureau of European Affairs and was also deputy chief of mission and chargé d’affaires of the US Embassy to Austria in 2005-2009, said the United States was an early advocate of the Turkish membership in the European Union, which Turkey aspires to be a member of even though the process of membership has slowed down.

“A Turkey that meets the criteria of the EU membership will bring a lot of strength to the EU. The economic downturn that hit all of us in the last couple of years made everything harder, not only this issue. If growth had been robust, if there was no employment problems in Europe, then self-confidence would be higher on the part of everybody and they would be able to take risks,” he said. “That is part of the reasons why things have slowed down. But as growth returns and the economic situation in Europe improves, then there will be more self-confidence that would allow this to go forward. There are a lot of positive trends in Turkey; entry into the EU is more compelling than it ever has been.”

Kilner emphasized that public debate in Turkey is much more vigorous and open than when he was here before. “When I was here for the first time you would never see the word Kurd in print. That changed long ago. The issues that are discussed in the press are much wider. There is a flourishing civil society,” the consul general added.

Kilner’s first postings were to İstanbul as a consular officer from 1982-83; to the US Embassy to the German Democratic Republic (East Berlin) as an economic officer from 1983-1985; and as political-economic officer at the US Consulate in Adana, Turkey, from 1985-1987. During the spring of 1991, he served temporarily with Operation Provide Comfort in southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq, assisting with the Kurdish refugee crisis that followed the Gulf War. From 1996-1999, he served as economic counselor in Ankara focusing on regional Caspian Basin energy development and Turkish economic stabilization and reform.

‘Turkish engagement in region positive force for stability’

Praising Turkey’s engagement with a number of its neighbors like Greece and Syria, Kilner said there has also been a bump in the road. “We would like to see that partnership renewed and reinvigorated. We hope more could be done with Armenia. That’s an unfinished agenda. Overall Turkish engagement in the region is a positive force for stability,” he said.

Regarding Iran, Kilner said that it’s a “special case.” “We don’t want Iranian people to suffer in any way because of economic sanctions. However, there is a very serious issue in terms of Iran’s nuclear program,” he said, adding that the US is confident that their objectives are same as those of the Turkish government.

“We also recognize that Turkey is a neighbor of Iran, always has, always will be. Turkey has a very legitimate interest in what happens in Iran. We recognize that. It has a constructive role to play in finding a solution to the Iran nuclear program,” he also said.

The fact that the next P5+1 (five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the US, Russia, China, Britain and France, as well as Germany) talks expected to start on Jan. 21 will be in İstanbul shows the recognition of Turkey’s legitimate role, Kilner said.

“Formal negotiations need to stay on this track, but that does not mean that countries outside that grouping cannot exert influence on Iran. This is what we want. Turkey has a strong voice in Tehran. We welcome it to use that voice constructively,” he added.

‘I worked for Amb. Ricciardone twice’

US Consul General in İstanbul Scott Kilner says has he worked with Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone, US President Barack Obama’s recess appointment to the US Embassy in Ankara.

“I worked for him twice, first when I was in Ankara as the counselor for economic affairs, and the second [time] was in Kabul. Ambassador Ricciardone is really in a class by himself qualified for this position. He served twice before in Turkey, not just in the capital but he knows Adana going even further back than my experience in Turkey. He has got both a combination of difficult senior level assignments in the US diplomatic service with Turkey specific knowledge and experience that nobody can match. He is an excellent interpreter of Turkey for the United States and of the United States in Turkey.”

‘Growth of consulate reflects activity in İstanbul’

US Consul General Scott Kilner is heading Europe’s second largest consulate after Frankfurt. There are six US government agencies at the US Consulate in İstanbul including the FBI, the Foreign Commercial Service and the Foreign Agricultural Service.

“That is part of the reason for the size. The other reason is that İstanbul is more and more each year a world city. It attracts a tremendous amount of international visitors, both tourists who require support from this consulate, but also a huge number of meetings. There are continual conferences here, and we need to support US delegations that will come,” Kilner said.

In addition to the planned P5+1 talks with Iran, there will be a meeting on women’s economic empowerment involving six neighboring countries of Turkey. “Department of State and Department of Commerce officials will come to do economic work. So there will be three important meetings within just a one-week period. And this is not unusual. When I was here in 1982-1983, we had one or two congressional delegations in a two-year period. It’s an unbelievable change. The growth of the consulate is just reflecting all the activity going on in İstanbul,” the consul general said.

QUOTE

“I am often asked, ‘What are you planning to do to improve the image of the United States in Turkey?’ It is clear that it is part of our major responsibility. I am also convinced that there are many Turks who think that strong US-Turkish relations are important. What I’d like to see is that people who believe that on the Turkish side would also speak up when the United States does something right, like to provide the huge support for Turkey’s fight against terrorism, against the PKK. This is not recognized as much as it should be.” (Source: Today's Zaman, January 16th, 2011)
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07

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