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Turkey's Honorary Consul Positive About Georgia Ties in 2011 PDF Print E-mail
2010-12-29 06:09:27
Image Mona Diamond was appointed the Turkish honorary consul general for the state of Georgia in 2005. In the same year, she became the chairman of the American Turkish Friendship Council, a not-for-profit organization for the promotion of close relations between the United States and Turkey.

In 2009, she organized and chaired an International Women’s Entrepreneurship and Leadership Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, and in September 2010, she partnered with two Turkish American business organizations and the American Chamber of Commerce Executives to head a delegation of civic and business leaders from throughout the U.S. to several Turkish cities.

Ms. Diamond responded to the following questions from GlobalAtlanta about her current activities in promoting relations between Georgia and Turkey as well as her plans for the coming year, including her efforts to open a breast cancer clinic in Mersin, Turkey. To learn more about Ms. Diamond’s activities on behalf of Turkey, go to http://www.honturkishconsulga.org/

GlobalAtlanta: How do you think Turkey is perceived by Americans generally? In what ways do you think that these perceptions may be inaccurate?

Ms. Diamond: I believe most Americans know very little about the Republic of Turkey. What they do know might not necessarily be correct. For example, many Americans feel Turkey is an Arab country and that the Turkish language is written in Arabic. Both are incorrect facts. The Turkish language is written with the Latin alphabet just as in English. Turkey is considered a European country and has applied for full membership into the European Union. Turkey is also a member of NATO. Although Turkey is 98 percent Muslim, Jews, Christians and all minorities live harmoniously and are allowed to practice their religion, cultures, and traditions freely.

Turkey is a secular country. As of 1923 many reforms were put in place by the founder of the republic and the first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. For example, women were given the right to vote and to be elected, equal education and employment opportunities exist both for men and women. Most Americans have no idea that the population is as large as 73 million people and that Turkey is the only country in the world that is on two continents—Europe and Asia.

GlobalAtlanta: And vice versa, how do the Turks view Americans generally and in what ways do you think that they may be mistaken?

Ms. Diamond: Most Turkish people form their opinions of Americans simply by what they see in the movies and watch on TV programs.

GlobalAtlanta:How have you in your role as honorary consul general tried to change these perceptions?

Ms. Diamond: As honorary consul general, it is my mission to introduce Turkey to the citizens of Georgia and to promote and expand educational, economic and humanitarian relationships between the Untied States and the Republic of Turkey. To achieve this mission, I founded the American Turkish Friendship Council, a 501 (c) (3) organization. This organization works hand in hand with me as honorary consul general of Georgia.

Through this organization, we have established the Endowed Emory University Turkish Lecture Series. We partner with the Claus Halle Institute for Global Learning.

We provide for credit Turkish language classes at Georgia State University with financial help from the Turkish consul general’s office in New York.

Another program of the American Turkish Friendship Council is the funding of the “Catoms” (Multipurpose Community Centers) Scholarship Program. The overall objective of Catoms is to enhance the status of women and the young population in southeastern Turkey. Catoms have various social programs, including a scholarship program. They select successful students who are unable to continue their education due to social and financial problems. The friendship council is a proud sponsor of these scholarships.

The main project of the friendship council is The Turkish Breast Cancer Center in the city of Mersin, Turkey. The center, which will be located in the State Hospital in Mersin, will serve a region of the country in need of a comprehensive approach to the detection and treatment of breast cancer.

The clinic will provide the resources necessary to detect, diagnose and treat breast cancer at the earliest stage possible and to promote awareness of the disease. Early detection followed by treatment and rehabilitation is the key to increased recovery rates.

We are very proud to be working very closely with the Turkish minister of health, Dr. Recep Akdag, and his staff who have made major changes and overall improvement of health and to provide a higher standard of living to the citizens of Turkey.

Turkey has an outstanding medical health system with highly qualified physicians and state of the art hospitals. Many patients from foreign countries are coming to receive medical care in Turkey each year.

The Breast Cancer Center to be established in Mersin will yet be another area of medical expertise. This project will be a collaboration of Turkish and U.S. doctors under the guidance of Dr. Lorraine Tafra, former president of the American Society of Breast Surgeons and director of the Anne Arundel Medical Centers Breast Center Clinic in Maryland.

The above examples are but a few of the projects of the ATFC  and demonstrate how as honorary consul general of Turkey and the chairman of the American Turkish Friendship Council, I try to influence the population of Georgia to work together in building relationships and mutual understanding with the citizens of Turkey.

GlobalAtlanta: In what ways has Turkey's economy changed in recent years and what opportunities do these changes represent for U.S. companies?

Ms. Diamond: There have been many changes in Turkey’s economy in the last decade. Turkey conveys the highest quality of goods to meet world standards and offers the market the best pricing structures. The Turkish economy has become the 17th largest economy in the world with its GNP at 750 billion U.S. dollars. Turkey is predicted to enter the top 10 economies in 2023. The Turkish economy grew with a 5.8 percent average increase between 2002 and 2008. The national income per capita exceeds $10,000 and has tripled since 2002 as inflation is only about 5 percent.

GlobalAtlanta: How is it that Turkey has emerged with a higher credit rating after the economic crisis than before?

Ms. Diamond: According to Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, Turkey has experienced a turning point in the history of the economy in the last eight years. Strengthening the economic structure, increasing the level of prosperity and eliminating the problems that constitute obstacles for a functioning healthy economy have formed the main frame of the reform efforts that were started in 2002. Reorganization of the banking system, strengthening of the public financial structure and rationalizing the social security system have all served to this purpose.

In this way, Turkey’s economy has grown uninterrupted for a long time and has become Europe’s sixth and the world’s seventeenth largest economy. The banking sector with high quality assets and 20 percent of capital adequacy level did not need any public contribution even during the crisis period. The Turkish banking structure has a significantly stronger structure than many developed or developing countries. The increase in the problematic loans of the banking sector with high asset quality is also at a minimal level.

GlobalAtlanta: You led a large and diverse delegation from the U.S. to Turkey earlier this year. The delegation was composed of chamber of commerce representatives, economic development officials, attorneys and business people. Are trips like this effective in initiating trade and other business relations? Do you have any specific examples?

Ms. Diamond: In September 2010 as honorary consul general of Turkey, I partnered with TABA, Turkish American Business Association and TACCI, the Turkish American Chambers of Commerce. We took a diverse delegation from the U.S. to visit the cities of Istanbul, Izmir, Bursa and Kocaeli. The delegation composed of presidents of chambers of commerce, economic development official, attorneys and business people interested in initiating trade with Turkey. Highlights of the trip were meeting with high ranking government officials such as the Minister of Trade Zafer Caglayan.

Minister Caglayan pointed out that Turkey and the U.S. are two countries with years of deep routed friendship and alliance. U.S. exports to Turkey are in a highly increasing trend but imports from Turkey have not increased at the same level. The minister feels it is of utmost importance that a trade balance exists between the U.S. and Turkey. The aim is to double exports from Turkey over the next five years.

President Obama and the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan have established the Economic and Commercial Strategic Cooperation Framework recently. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan and Minister of Trade Zafer Caglayan will represent Turkey. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk will be the representatives for the United States. Turkish and American businessmen doing business in both countries will come up with new projects and ideas aimed at elevating to a higher level the economic and commercial relations between the two countries.

Several of the attendees have shown an interest in joint ventures with Turkish companies and some in establishing a distribution center for their goods. Overall, the trade mission to Turkey was very positive.

GlobalAtlanta: In what specific areas do you think U.S. companies (especially small- and medium-sized companies) should invest in Turkey?

Ms. Diamond: Turkey has a young, dynamic and well-educated population. Turkey’s location is at the center of commercial transit points. The fast developing domestic market is also an important reason for the foreign investor in Turkey. In the last six years the GNP increased from $220 billion to $750 billion.

The population of Turkey is 73 million people. The average age is 28. The potential of Turkey is unbelievable; it has 400,000 university graduates, more than 44 million credit card holders and nearly 30 million Internet users.
Turkey has a stabilized political system and stabilized economy and a low inflation rate, competitive interest rates, which makes it enticing for foreign investment.

The Turkish government also offers incentives for foreign investors. So many top American companies have their business in Turkey including Best Buy, Citibank, The Coca-Cola Company, Conrad, Ernst &Young, Ford, Frito-Lay, Goodyear, Hewlett-Packard, Hilton, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch, Motorola, Pfizer, Philip Morris International, Procter & Gamble, Starbucks Coffee, The Ritz Carlton Hotel, UPS, Wells Fargo and Nike.

GlobalAtlanta: What will be your major goals as honorary consul general for 2011?

Ms. Diamond: It is with great personal satisfaction that I serve as the honorary consul general for Turkey in Georgia. I have the opportunity to introduce Turkey to so many Americans and build bridges of understanding between Turkey and the United States. In the year 2011 we will be working to put a Breast Cancer Center in Mersin, Turkey. This is collaboration between American and Turkish doctors and will be placed in the State Hospital. The aim is to bring breast cancer awareness to women in the Mersin region of Turkey.

We will continue with giving scholarships to keep girls in schools in the eastern cities of Turkey through Catoms.

We will also partake as we do each year with the Endowed Turkish Lecture Series at Emory University, with the Turkish language program that is taught at Georgia State University.

At Oglethorpe University, we are planning to have a contemporary art exhibit from Turkey. The High Museum of Art is working with us in order to bring an art exhibit to this museum as well.

We will decorate a tree from Turkey and display it at Fernbank as we have done for the first time in 2010. Also, we will continue to be involved with Congressman John Lewis's International Fair.

Once again, we hope to bring many speakers from Turkey to talk about investment in the country and joint ventures that can take place between Turkish and American partners.

As you can see, we expect 2011 to be a very exciting year and hope to bring more Americans together with our Turkish population here in Atlanta.

We want our friends to learn about our culture, food, history and business opportunities and to visit Turkey if at all possible. The future looks very bright.

As honorary consul general and chairman of the American Turkish Friendship Council, I invite one and all to join us and experience the warm hospitality of Turkey!

(Source: www.globalatlanta.com)
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