Executive Director, U.S.-Türkiye Business Council, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
March 21, 2023
On March 13, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s U.S.-Türkiye Business Council and U.S. Chamber Foundation in collaboration with the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Türkiye (TOBB) hosted more than 100 key stakeholders across U.S. and Turkish governments and businesses to demonstrate solidarity and a shared commitment toward recovery efforts after the devastating earthquakes.
The U.S.-Türkiye Business Forum: Prioritizing Resilient Partnerships featured Türkiye’s Minister of Trade, H.E. Dr. Mehmet Muş, Türkiye’s Presidential Spokesperson and Special Advisor, H.E. Ambassador İbrahim Kalın, Turkish Ambassador to the U.S., H.E. Hasan Murat Mercan, U.S. Ambassador to Türkiye, The Honorable Jeffry Flake, Acting Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, Ambassador John Bass, Assistant Secretary of Defense Celeste Wallander, and USAID’s Assistant Administrator for the Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance Sarah Charles.
Discussions outlined bilateral cooperation focused on the current, emerging, and long-term needs to facilitate a robust and resilient recovery, while advancing U.S.-Türkiye relations in the process. Overarching themes included partnerships in corporate mobilization of aid, resilience of small- and medium-enterprises (SME) and women exporters, leveraging supply chains, optimizing logistics, deploying aerospace and defense equipment, digital technologies and ramping up bilateral energy and climate cooperation.
As the Chamber discussed with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week, the U.S.-Türkiye business community is committed to long-term public-private partnerships that accelerate recovery and rebuilding efforts. Senior corporate representatives speaking about their work in Türkiye during this critical time included: Amazon, Baker Hughes, Boeing, Ege Gaz, Google, Kale Group, Lockheed Martin, Marriott, PepsiCo and UPS.
- The earthquake region is economically important for industry and agriculture. The region accounts for approximately 9% of Turkish total GDP, 8.5% of exports and 14% of agriculture production in Türkiye. Approximately 2,000 companies in the region have been negatively impacted by the earthquakes and economic output is expected to fall by more than 50%.
- While container cities are being set up to replace the large tent cities in the earthquake affected region, the recovery process across these 11 cities will take years. The Turkish government spoke to developing plans and sustainable projects that companies can contribute to in helping rebuild towns and villages.
- Nearly 200 companies have contributed more than $110 million and the U.S. government has contributed $185 million to this initial phase of recovery efforts, in addition to impactful initiatives to support earthquake survivors. Companies discussed how they have been mobilizing resources, technical capabilities, people, time, and talent in a moment’s notice to immediately respond to needs.
- A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Türkiye will further link more than 4.5 million U.S. and Turkish businesses and trade organizations to contribute to recovery efforts.
- The U.S. Chamber’s U.S.-Türkiye Business Council is advocating for a more comprehensive U.S.-Türkiye commercial dialogue to build on record-high trade volume to address recovery needs as well as economic reforms to propel growth and prosperity.
- The Chamber is also advocating for a U.S.-Türkiye Energy and Climate Dialogue that will increase U.S. LNG to Türkiye (the 2nd largest purchaser of U.S. LNG in Europe) and European countries, as well bilateral environmental cooperation, taking on renewed importance with the recycling of rubble from the earthquake and rebuilding efforts.
- There is strong interest from the business community to invest in resilient solutions and community innovations as part of the rebuilding process to mitigate future seismic risk.
- U.S. and Turkish companies are tapping their supply chains and global networks to mobilize aid and develop products that meet the needs of earthquake survivors. The air bridge between U.S. and Türkiye and logistics within Türkiye have been vital in delivering aid. Supply chain partnerships have helped develop mobile kitchens, bathrooms, showers, and laundry stations in the earthquake zone.
- Discussions at the Chamber forum also centered on the foundational NATO partnership linking the U.S.-Türkiye alliance in aerospace and defense. Ambassador Kalin previewed that Türkiye would be ratifying Finland’s bid for NATO accession, while a process is underway for Sweden to address Turkish security concerns prior to joining the alliance.
- As the 2nd largest military in NATO, Türkiye is a formidable U.S. defense partner. One that has consistently invested in its military capabilities, including advanced weapons systems and drones sent to Ukraine that have helped provide an edge in the early days and months of Russia’s invasion.
- Ambassador Flake visited Congressional leaders with the Turkish delegation to help mend strained relations. These meetings discussed Congress’ appetite for support of earthquake recovery efforts in Türkiye and the country’s request for $20 billion F-16’s, which Congress is linking to the NATO bid for both Sweden and Finland.
- U.S. businesses and their Turkish counterparts are rising to the challenge to revitalize ties and invest in critical needs for a more resilient, long-term partnership.
About the authors
Jennifer Miel is executive director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Middle East and Turkey Affairs Department. Miel draws upon more than 10 years of service to the U.S. business community to advance commercial cooperation between the public and private sectors in the U.S. and this critical region.