Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey

US-Türkiye Business Forum

13.03.2023 / Washington / USA

The Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Türkiye (TOBB) President M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu informed U.S. investors about the earthquake disaster in Türkiye and requested support at the meeting on “Türkiye-US Business Forum: Prioritization of the Earthquake Zone” organized by TOBB and the American Chamber of Commerce in Washington.​

In addition to TOBB President Hisarcıklıoğlu, Trade Minister Mehmet Muş, Türkiye's Ambassador to Washington Hasan Murat Mercan, U.S. Ambassador to Ankara Jeffry Flake, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President for Türkiye and the Middle East Khush Choksy, and representatives of the business world from Türkiye and the United States attended the forum.

In his speech at the opening, Hisarcıklıoğlu said that the Kahramanmaraş-based earthquakes that occurred on February 6 affected 11 provinces in the southeastern region of Türkiye and 14 million people in these cities.

Referring to the importance of the region for the Turkish economy as well as human losses, Hisarcıklıoğlu emphasized that the region is important for both industry and agriculture sectors.

Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu said the region accounts for 9 percent of Türkiye's total national income, 8.5 percent of its exports and 14 percent of its agricultural production.

Hisarcıklıoğlu pointed out that economic activity and production in the region are expected to fall by about 50 percent, and this will have a direct negative impact on economic growth this year.

Hisarcıklıoğlu stated that nearly 200,000 companies were adversely affected by this disaster.

Hisarcıklıoğlu explained TOBB's relief efforts for the region and thanked the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the business world and the government for their solidarity.

Hisarcıklıoğlu, pointing out that they will renew the cooperation agreement between them and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for another year, said, “I believe that we can do much more together.”

- Minister of Trade Muş

Trade Minister Mehmet Muş said the Kahramanmaras-based earthquakes that occurred on February 6th caused devastation in a vast area covering 11 provinces in Türkiye's southeastern region, killing more than 47,000 people.

Muş said that their priority is to carry out the relief efforts in the fastest and most effective way and to heal the wounds, and that they have achieved this goal. Pointing out that their next priority is to make the necessary preparations and build safe settlement areas, Muş said that they have also carried out a comprehensive examination to determine the impact of the disaster on businesses.

Pointing out that they have rapidly implemented region-specific policies such as tax exemptions, state supports, direct financial aid, Muş continued: “We are determined to compensate for our losses as soon as possible and to return our people to their daily lives. While we are on the road to recovery, we do not know when our trade will reach pre-earthquake levels in these provinces, which have been heavily affected by earthquakes both in terms of capital and labor. It will certainly have a huge impact on our supply chains with the world, including the US, especially in certain sectors such as yarn, textile, steel and carpet. That's why we need to maintain and support such supply chains in both directions.”

Reminding that support came from many countries and international organizations, especially the United States, during these difficult times, Muş said that just hours after the earthquakes, the U.S. government quickly mobilized and provided humanitarian aid, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce organized a significant amount of in-kind and financial aid.

Muş stated that the next stage is to rebuild the cities, adding that approximately 800,000 houses will be built in the first stage and that they aim to rebuild the cities in a much more modern and sustainable way.

Emphasizing the importance of financing as well as having technical capacity in this context, Muş reported that a donors' conference hosted by the European Union (EU) will be held in Brussels this month.

“From a commercial point of view, the production of reconstruction and related sectors such as construction materials will gain momentum and these sectors will probably be potential areas that entrepreneurs will target in the short term. It is clear that we need not only normalize the economies of the region, but also strengthen them. Because we need to build sustainable cities and create jobs for that. That's why it's all the more important to have strong economic cooperation and trade relations with our partners, including the United States, as well as reconstruction efforts.”

- Other speakers

Khush Choksy, Senior Vice President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for Türkiye and the Middle East, reminded that approximately 200 international companies provided more than 110 million USD in kind and financial assistance after the earthquakes that affected Türkiye and Syria.

Recalling that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce regarding the support provided to Türkiye in the aftermath of the earthquakes, Choksy said it was a critical time to establish business relations between the U.S. and Türkiye.

Türkiye's Ambassador to Washington Hasan Murat Mercan stated that the solidarity shown by the international community in the aftermath of the earthquakes gave strength to Türkiye. Mercan said that they quickly launched an aid campaign after the earthquakes and that all Turkish missions in the United States accepted donations to the earthquake regions.

Ambassador Mercan reminded that thousands of relief materials were collected throughout the United States and sent to Türkiye through Turkish Airlines.

U.S. Ambassador to Ankara Jeffry Flake touched upon the work of U.S. search and rescue teams in Türkiye. Flake said that the US team transferred the field hospital it established in Hatay in 5 days to the Ministry of Health.

Flake pointed out that the U.S. government has pledged $185 million in aid due to the earthquakes affecting Türkiye and Syria.

Following the speeches, a memorandum of understanding on cooperation was signed between TOBB and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The memorandum of understanding aims to increase cooperation in Türkiye-US economic, commercial, investment relations and post-earthquake reconstruction efforts.

After the meeting, TOBB President Hisarcıklıoğlu, Trade Minister Muş and Türkiye's Ambassador to Washington Mercan visited the TOBB Washington office.

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