On April 20, THO partnered with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s U.S.-Turkey Business Council and the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) to host a special discussion with H.E. Mehmet Simsek, Deputy Prime Minister for Economic and Financial Affairs of the Republic of Turkey.
The invitation-only discussion was joined by representatives from the American and Turkish business communities as well as government officials and civil society leaders.
After introductory remarks from the hosts, Minister Simsek delivered prepared remarks to the audience. An off-the-record discussion followed.
In his remarks, Minister Simsek addressed concerns and misperceptions about Turkey’s political situation and laid out a package of planned economic reforms to boost Turkey’s economic growth and make Turkey a more attractive country for investment.
Referencing concerns in Washington that Turkey’s political environment is suffering a democratic shortfall, Minister Simsek assured the audience that “Turkey is not entering a democratic recession.”
“Turkey has responded effectively to unusual threats and traumas,” he said, arguing that in doing so, the country has “saved Turkish rule of law and democracy.” He emphasized that the result of the April 16 referendum, which was in favor of adopting constitutional changes to create an executive presidency, will allow Turkey’s political system to stabilize. He noted that under the current parliamentary system, Turkey has had 65 governments since the founding of the Republic in 2023, with an average length of less than 1.5 years per government; the change to an executive presidency system will hopefully allow the government to last for five-year terms.
He noted that various external and internal shocks – such as terror attacks by ISIS and the PKK as well as the July 16 coup attempt – prevented the government from realizing a broad package of economic reforms. He said that now there are expectations that these reforms can be revisited, including strengthening the R&D entrepreneurship ecosystem, reforming the labor code and severance pay, establishing regional appeal courts to speed up the appeals process, reforming the tax code, and improving the quality of education.
“We are open to business. We will reform. We will deliver on growth and macro-performance,” Minister Simsek told the audience. He noted that even in times of difficulty, such as last year’s multiple attacks and coup attempt, Turkey has maintained and will continue to maintain fiscal discipline.
He underlined that Turkey remains “part of the Western family,” with a continuing commitment to common values like democracy, fundamental rights and freedoms, and rule of law. He noted that though there are issues between the U.S. and Turkey regarding “how to handle the ISIS threat” as well as the July 15 coup plotters, these issues have not precluded an ongoing close relationship between both countries. “We’re working constructively with the U.S. administration. We are optimistic that we can strengthen our ties, that we can move forward,” he said.
He also emphasized that both the EU and Turkey need each other and that Turkey is seeking further economic integration with Europe and the rest of the world.
He noted that “global headlines don’t do any justice when it comes to Turkey’s story,” often obscuring the country’s resilience in the face of extraordinary shocks and threats. He reminded the audience that Turkey’s 80 million citizens are still eager to “catch up” economically with the U.S. and Europe, and he underlined that there are plenty of opportunities for the American and Turkish business communities to make that desire a reality.