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President of Turkey on their economic & foreign policy priorities

Wednesday 20 June, 2012

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs hosted Abdullah Gül, President of Turkey.  Here’s a summary of his address:

Turkey is expanding it’s diplomatic forces by opening 21 embassies in Latin America, 34 in Africa, & more.  Turkey has the 2nd fastest growing economy in the world, trailing only China, with GDP tripling & trade volume quadrupling in the last decade.  Turkey joined NATO in 1952, but is it merely an ally of NATO?  They must balance the freedom granted its citizens with the rights given to those citizens.  It’s geography/location make Turkey a center of trade, literally as well as figuratively.  They have only recently reached out to countries in their own region to build bridges with them & have been quite successful @ it.  Many democratic reforms started in 2003 which enhanced human rights & the rule of law.  Have the Turks been too ambitious & independent?  It depends on how you see the values of the free world.  It’s in the interest of everyone to change in the right direction.  Turkey was elevated to the 3rd level of the G20.  Diplomatically, Turkey is most active in Syria & Yemen, where they are in touch with the opposition as well as those in power.  Dictatorships & democracies don’t change easily.  The highest priority is cooperation within the region.  They have no choice but to pursue a solution.  Turkey has a large assistance program for Afghanistan, opening hospitals, etc.  Afghanistan’s future lies in the hands of its own people.  Turkey gets along well with the US, & seeks a diplomatic multiplier in cooperation in the Middle East.  Turkey will be the President of the G20 2015-16.

Turkey must reform constantly.  Here are some of the reforms which are needed:

  • become more investment & trade-friendly
  • address the budget deficit that’s 1.4% of GDP & public debt that’s 39% of GDP
  • strengthen banks, which have already been growing @ 9%
  • create  jobs, on par with 4M the last 3 years
  • bring predictability to policy choices
  • new incentives for investment
  • increase productivity with vocational training (after the visit in Chicago, he’s off to Silicon Valley)
  • strive to become a virtuous power with mutual cooperation towards common goals, recognizing the value of partnerships,  & not by imposing things on people

Q&A

  • Gül believes a 2-state solution is rational & realistic for Israel & Palestine
  • Women should be included in democracy, in Morocco & elsewhere
  • As Turkey approaches it’s 100 year anniversary, their vision for scientific infrastructure is to be 1 top 10 economy by 2023, therefore economic development must mobilize an R&D focus, indicated by an increase from 70 to 170 universities in the last 10 years
  • Turkey participated on behalf of NATO in evacuations of Libya with 2 ships & 6 planes
  • domestic violence exists in Turkey & the media loves to cover it, but it’s no worse than in other places
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