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The ATC Annual Conference Continuing Dialogue to Get Turkey and the US Back on the Trade Growth Track; 200% Trade Growth in 3 Years is Possible

An Insightful Interview with Howard G. Beasey, President of the ATC

Issue 70

Defence Turkey magazine had the opportunity to meet with ATC President and CEO Howard G. Beasey recently in Ankara. Mr. Beasey provided a comprehensive overview of the plans and expectations for the 2016 Annual Conference to be held October 30 – November 1 in Washington DC.  He also reflected upon the successful new strategies of the ATC within the last year.  

The ATC serves its members as a critical voice, source of knowledge, trade convener, and diplomatic counsel in both Washington, DC and Ankara. The ATC helps member companies grow by providing them opportunities to leverage their brand among chief stakeholders. The ATC’s advocacy efforts aim to shape policies that advance U.S.-Turkey trade relations. The organization’s local market expertise provides members with essential insights and information to enhance their strategic capabilities. They develop members’ networks by facilitating relationships with private sector leaders, educational institutions, policy makers, and high-level government officials.

Annual ATC Conference Expected to Draw attendance of high level Turkish Ministerial Representation

“This year’s annual conference, under the circumstances, is very relevant and at a good time, not only prior to administration change in the US but also with the recent events in Turkey it has taken on a new level of importance particularly as it relates to defense, on the structural side. What we hope to achieve in relation to the defense industry is to talk about some of the changes that are occurring and how that may affect US – Turkey industry cooperation” said Mr. Beasey. He also shared that they have good indications that senior levels of Turkish government are likely to attend this year’s event, such as the Turkish Foreign Minister Mr. Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and the Turkish Economy minister Nihat Zeybekçi.  He also shared “We are working with the military to determine who is likely to participate.  We know that Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has strong interest in continuing cooperation here in Turkey and building that coalition as it relates to events in Syria.” Mr. Beasey continued saying that “the Chief of General Staff Major General Hulusi Akar, also in some sense, after the July events, is looking to help rebuild the relationship and reputation of the Turkish Armed Forces, so we hope that both of these individuals might come to the conference this year.” 

Shaping the Future: Business, Innovation, and Growth – 15 different Industries

The 35th Annual Conference on U.S.-Turkey Relations will again convene hundreds of stakeholders and thought leaders to address key bilateral commercial and diplomatic topics. This year’s theme is: Shaping the Future: Business, Innovation, and Growth, reflects the vision behind the Annual Conference: to fortify and develop the critical economic, political, and security linkages that support the longstanding U.S.-Turkey partnership. Mr. Beasey remarked, “We are excited this year because we will be covering about 15 difference industries at the conference. Last year we started this process and this year we are going to continue.  Other sectors that relate to defense are going to be on the agenda this year: cyber security, research and development cooperation, ICT.  The ATC did an innovation summit in July, that touched on a number of sectors but defense is obviously one of those where we have seen cooperation here in Turkey and we want to see that continue and grow in terms of research and development.”

The platinum sponsor this year is SNC – Sierra Nevada Corporation.  Mr. Beasey noted that “they have a presence with the TRJet project and they are even looking at the newly established space program under the ministry of transportation, there could be some opportunity there as well.”  The ATC expects that this year’s event is going to be really important and discussions about the relationship bi-laterally, the defense relationship, continuing cooperation both in industry and as it relates to regional conflicts that are going on. He continued “We will have 3 distinct sessions on defense. We are co-hosting this year with TAIK – Turkish US Business council for the additional participation, support and content development.” 

US-Turkey Defense Policy Panel 

“We are interested to learn how some of the reforms that are going on in the Turkish military structure are going to affect the relationship.  In the US, there is an ongoing dialogue over the broad security cooperation programs that the US runs around the world, and is it that truly meeting the mission of building relationships, maintaining our ties, interoperability with our allies etc.  There is some discussion in Washington on reforms to that process that we want to highlight” said Mr. Beasey.   

Laying the Landscape Going Forward - Top Tier Representation from the US

The traditional defense companies from the US will be present: Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, GE, Pratt Whitney and SNC; and from Turkey: companies such as Havelsan, Aselsan, TAI, Roketsan and TEI.  The ATC expects that this year’s conference is going to be well attended. Mr. Beasey elaborated and said, “It is really necessary this year as we lay the landscape going forward. We will invite Secretary Kerry, among others. On the US front, one of our key goals is to get some potential top tier representation that could be in the next administration, some names we are hoping to invite are top level campaign advisors such as retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn who is a top adviser to Donald Trump with the Trump campaign, and Huma Abiden a close aide to Hilary Clinton with the Clinton campaign – both are top level advisors, and are likely to be in some senior level positions in the future.  We would like for them to talk about what their candidate’s foreign policy platform might look like. A week after the ATC conference we will see who wins the presidential election on Nov 8th.

The ATC Supports Defense Industry Investment Initiatives   

The topic of the defense industry is always of great importance at the annual conferences, however attendees can expect some new elements in content and structure of the conference this year. Mr. Beasey shared some highlights to look forward to: “On the second day we are going to host some Ted Talk style discussions on new developments in the industries.  We will have several workshops on market entry, market access, for both US companies coming to Turkey or Turkish companies coming to the US. One of the things that we want to talk about as it relates to the defense sectors is investment in each other’s markets. In 2015, Havelsan purchased a US company and this is the first time that we’ve seen a Turkish based defense company invest in the US and we are excited to see that, and we welcome more opportunities like that, of course there are a lot of investments in the US. Other companies that are doing wonderful things right now are BAE in their joint venture at FNSS. BAE is committing a lot of resources and are looking with a long view at Turkey, so we are excited to support those types of initiatives as well.”

Topics on the Agenda

In the last 15 years the economy has grown rapidly and this year’s ATC conference theme is: Shaping the Future, business innovation and growth. Mr. Beasey stated, “We are trying to continue the dialogue around innovation.  Healthcare, telemedicine, ICT, some of the reforms in laws that have been implemented in Turkey to encourage investment in R&D, to grow the ecosystem. In particular, higher education is on the agenda this year as an extremely important component to the R&D ecosystem, the standardization of quality and output of PHD level students to support the R&D sector. Agriculture, technology use in the agricultural space. Energy is always on the agenda – traditional and renewables.” Mr. Beasey also indicated that there is “a lot to discuss in the banking sector, banking finance and innovation as Turkey is still building its reputation in Istanbul as a financial center. The agreement between the Export–Import Bank of the United States and the Export Credit Bank of Turkey (Turk Eximbank), is relevant for the construction and transportation industry that continue to grow well in Turkey.”    Another topic on the agenda will be Turkey’s mega projects – cooperation, infrastructure, the 3rd airport, and continued development of the rail networks. He shared as well that privatization is also very interesting to the US sector, not only in the energy space (TPIC - Turkish Petroleum is currently undergoing a tender for privatization) but also in the rail industry as it looks to privatize.  

“The reality is that at this conference there is not enough time to touch on everything that we’d like to. What we try to do is pick the best opportunities; the most enduring topics and we touch on them and try to create some dialogue.  Under my leadership with the ATC, I envision our yearly programming as a continuation. The annual conference still is an important venue both as a closing and a starting point for our programming on an annual basis. This year we did an investment summit in February, we did an innovation summit, chairman trip, and next year we will continue that, and we will look for opportunities that come out of the conference, we will continue the dialogue and we will expand on that in the coming year. There is so much that we need to do and can do.”   

$ 50 Billion in Trade by 2025 – Creating a Path Returning to an Era of Growth  

The ATC authored a report earlier this year titled “50 billion by 2025” that will come out in hard copy at the conference. Mr. Beasey stated that “the report looked at the past decade from the early 2000s of US – Turkey economic cooperation, by 2009 reaching $ 6 billion range, and from 2009 – 2012 because of efforts by both governments, the trade grew from $ 6 billion to approximately $ 20.5 billion in trade, 200% growth in just 3 years.  Unfortunately, then in 2013 the politics interceded again to some degree, we began to stagnate, multiple election cycles here in the US, the regional conflict, and the Syrian conflict became a challenging issue between the two countries. We’ve seen trade slide back down now to around $15 billion. Most economists think based on the size of the US economy and the size, growth and vibrancy of the Turkish economy, that a $ 50 billion figure should be more realistic and not too terribly hard to achieve.” He continued, “Some might scoff at that, but to get from where we are now to there by 2025 is a 200% increase, which we did in 3 years in 2009 – 2012.” The ATC report looked at the systems and policies that were put into place to make that level of growth happen, with an attempt to have a balanced perspective on the contributions or lack of contributions from both sides, advocating ways that the relationship could return to this era of growth. Mr. Beasey emphasized “Currently of course there are some challenging issues in the political space between the two countries, but I do think that the US and Turkey understand the outright necessity of this relationship, the long standing historic ties that we have had and really do understand that this relationship needs to be handled very carefully and much more attention paid by both sides.”

Membership has Grown in Number and in Sector – much more at Stake

We have tried to become much more inclusive with who we work with, the organizations we work with, the space of US - Turkey business development has grown quite a bit and we are open to cooperating with those organizations.   The ATC membership has grown not only in numbers but also in sectors, and as such we have a much broader array of companies and issues that are at stake. “We implemented a whole new business strategy at the beginning of this year. We went out and did a lot of research, one on one interview with our members to really understand the kinds of things that they needed. We have a 3 tier membership and what we try to do is match those tiers of membership with different business personas, meaning what are their interests, what types of services at certain levels in their growth in the relationship do they need, etc. We try to match those up and become much more service oriented, member focused.” Mr. Beasey candidly shared that he can refer to the ATC as “a boutique business council, we are small, we are a little more than 100 members at this point and we can only grow as fast as we can provide relevant and quality service to our members, but we definitely are much more member focused, issued focused, problem solving and trying to promote a solve culture for all of our members on both the Turkish side and the US side.”

Chairman’s Trip – Helping Turkish Companies Interpret the US Business Landscape

Mr. Beasey shared that they are in the early stages of planning for the ‘reverse chairman’s trip’, which focuses on taking Turkish companies to the US, introducing them to regional markets. He elaborated “As interest in investment from Turkish companies to the US has grown we have tried to meet that need by helping them interpret the business landscape, helping them understand that in the US the state level matters so much, when you look at the US market you don’t look at it as a monolith, it’s not coast to coast, but you look at it in regions based on your sectors based on your desires, weather it is land policy, tax policy, manufacturing, etc. The states really matter and can impact choices of where you go.”

Looking Ahead to Next Year’s Events

The Annual Conference next year will be moved back to the June time frame. “We’ve started our ‘summit series’ which are day long events very focused on very specific sector issues. We’ve had 2 successful ones this year, we will continue that next year.  Possible topics there could be defense, ICT, retail, manufacturing, there a number of areas to look at. The R&D space specific to the defense sector, we could easily do a summit on that sector.  We have more than we can produce in a year so we are trying to be thoughtful about what we do and how we bring value to our members” he said.

Mr. Beasey revealed that “this year we are bringing a lot of tech, we are doing a conference networking application, and in addition to that we have been working with a media management company. They will help us produce a post-conference report this year.  A glossy 50-page magazine will be produced after the conference this year that will summarize the sessions, and allow us to continue the dialogue on those sessions through written pieces by some of the contributors, helping to push the agenda into the next year.”

The American-Turkish Council (ATC), is a leading independent business organization that exists to help member companies achieve their bilateral business and investment objectives and to facilitate stronger U.S.-Turkey relations. Their diverse membership includes Fortune 500s, multinationals, and U.S. and Turkey-based small and medium-sized enterprises from multiple sectors. Equipped with decades of experience, expertise, and an influential network, the ATC provides its member community with opportunities, services, and programs designed to resolve business challenges and strengthen linkages between the two countries.