Congressional Study Group on Turkey

Since the middle of the 20th century, the United States and Turkey have worked diligently to address varied challenges and to maintain a fruitful relationship with one another.

Founded in 2005, the Congressional Study Group on Turkey gives Members of Congress opportunities to meet with their counterparts in the Turkish Grand National Assembly and with officials in the Turkish government to discuss important policy issues.  Through keynote speaking engagements, roundtable discussions, and informal receptions, the program facilitates more effective policy formation and provides a forum for both Turkish and American officials to work cooperatively.

Throughout the year, the Study Group organizes events on Capitol Hill that promote the sustained study and analysis of policy in U.S.-Turkish relations. The program invites distinguished individuals from both the Turkish and the United States governments to speak about relevant issues and to promote open discussion.

In addition to the Annual U.S.-Turkey Seminar, some of the highlights of this year’s programming included:

  • A  luncheon discussion with the Foreign Affairs Minister of the Republic of Turkey, Honorable Prof. Ahmet Davutoglu
  • A luncheon discussion with the President of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey, Mr. Rıfat Hisarcıklıoğlu

The luncheon with the Foreign Affairs Minister of Turkey, Prof. Ahmet Davutoglu was held on June 3, 2009. Rep. Robert Wexler opened the luncheon by stressing the importance of a strong Turkish-American partnership and expressed gratitude that relations have improved drastically over the past few years.

Minister Davutoglu began his remarks by noting the historically unique status of America as a global power based on a continent apart from the Eurasian/African landmass.  He highlighted America’s internal diversity as a source of respect for multiculturalism and multilateralism, and drew parallels with Turkey’s similar history as a center for migration.  He poignantly demonstrated the importance of Turkey—Ankara is within 1000km of 25 different countries, many of which are of high strategic value to the United States.  Turkey is surrounded by a number of “frozen” conflicts which carry great risks, as Russia and Georgia demonstrated in their war last summer.  He finished his remarks by reviewing President Obama’s successful visit to Turkey.  Davutoglu’s current visit to Washington is a continuation of the dialogue initiated by President Obama during his trip.

After the speech, Minister Davutoglu fielded questions from the audience on issues such as Cyrpus, Turkey’s relationship with Iraq, and Turkey’s relationship with Armenia. His expertise on these topics was of great interest to many of the Members of Congress who were present,  which led to an interesting and thoughtful discussion on a range of topics involving Turkey.

The luncheon with Mr. Rıfat Hisarcıklıoğlu, President of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) was held on September 16, 2009.  Congressman Ed Whitfield, the Co-Chair of the Congressional Study Group on Turkey began his remarks by stressing the important role that the CSGT plays in nurturing active exchange programs between the U.S. Congress and Turkey. Congressman Whitfield also highlighted how important U.S. – Turkey bilateral relations have become in recent years. He then introduced, the guest of honor, Mr. Rifat Hisarciklioglu.

First, Mr. Hisarciklioglu discussed the role of TOBB.  He then touched on the economic transformation of Turkey since the 1980’s, which began with the efforts of former President Turgut Ozal and has continued for the last two to three decades. He mentioned that in the beginning of the 80’s Turkish exports equaled roughly 2 billion dollars and that the Turkish economy was far from being an important player in world economy.

In the last part of his speech he focused on the economic relations between the United States and Turkey.  He stressed that U.S- Turkey business and trade relations are not at the level where they should be and that there is a need for improvement.

After his speech, Mr. Hisarciklioglu took questions from participants. Several business and political issues were addressed including:  perspectives on U.S. – Turkey business and economic relations, U.S. investments in Turkey versus Turkish investment in the U.S., and TOBB’s role in bolstering the U.S. – Turkey partnership.

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The 20009 U.S.-Turkey Seminar

The Congressional Study Group on Turkey’s 5th Annual U.S.-Turkey Seminar took place in between August 30-September 4, 2009 in Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey. The conference involved five Members of the U.S. Congress and four Members of the Turkish Grand National Assembly as well as other government officials, business leaders and academia. Throughout the Seminar, U.S. and Turkish legislators came together with policy makers and business representatives to examine important bilateral topics including the global economic downturn, energy, and cooperation in the Middle East.

This past year was a great success in the growth of the CSGT. Thanks to the support of The Turkish Coalition of America, The German Marshall Fund of the United States, the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, and The Congressional Study Group on Turkey’s Business Advisory Council, the Study Group was able to have an active and informative event calendar.

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