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Cablegate: Gaziantep Business Community: Let's Get Down To

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. SUMMARY: DPO and the PD FSN visited Gaziantep October
21-24 to become familiarized with the American Corner
operation there and meet with local business people.
Gaziantep presents itself as a forward-thinking,
business-oriented city which seeks to overcome any obstacles
to commerce. There are clearly good resources and a desire
to work with the U.S. (especially in Iraq). So far, with the
exception of Sanko Holding, very few business people whom
consulate staff met are participating in the reconstruction
effort in Iraq. Considering the business and educational
resources available in Gaziantep, the American Corner is
well-positioned to provide a viable connection between the US
and this important Southeast Turkey business center. END

2. DPO and the PD FSN visited Gaziantep October 21-24 to
become familiarize post with the American Corner operation
and meet with local business people. Their visit to the
American Corner coincided with that of the PAO and
Information Resource Center Director from Embassy Ankara.
The contrast between this city and the climate in other
cities in Southeast Turkey is exemplified by the fact that in
a three-day visit interlocutors only initiated one political
discussion with the DPO. Members of the Gaziantep business
community repeatedly told consulate staff, &let,s not let
politics interfere with doing business. In Gaziantep we are
business people first, not politicians.8

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3. Gaziantep Chamber of Industry (COI) President Nejat Kocer
expressed disappointment in the cancellation of the
FCS-sponsored &Doing Business in the US8 seminar and hoped
that the Ambassador would make a visit in the near future.
He is supportive of our American Corner located in the COI,
and believed that it could improve the commercial connection
between the US and Gaziantep. He also mentioned that the EU
supported a very active office in Gaziantep. According to
Kocer, this office sponsored frequent large meetings and
maintained connections with the Turkish Ambassador to the EU.
In his experience, these meetings successfully opened
markets, particularly in Iraq, for Gaziantep-based business

4. Kocer visited the US as part of a previous Adana PO,s
commercial delegation and is familiar with US business
practices. He believed there would be value in a partnership
between the Gaziantep COI and a COI in the US, something
similar to a &sister city8 concept. He also suggested that
an US export fair in Gaziantep, particularly in the area of
agricultural machinery and products, would attract customers
for US products.

5. Consulate staff met with Deputy General Secretary of the
Southeast Exporters Union Ekrem Acilgan and representatives
of the export business community. The representatives
identified two major impediments to doing business in Iraq
(consulate staff heard the same at the COI ). First, the
10,000 USD restriction on transporting cash across the
Iraq-Syria border is hitting the exporters particularly hard
because there is no viable banking system in place in Iraq.
They wondered how they could do business without violating
this restriction. Secondly, they expressed concern that the
peshmergas at the Habur Gate collected customs duties only
from Turks and not other nationalities. They stated that
peshmergas generally charged Turks 1500 USD per truckload.

6. Most exporters seemed to be doing business at prewar
levels and experienced difficulty procuring new contracts.
They were not pleased that they were unable to deal directly
with the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) or large
contractors, and were only able to work through a network of
middlemen. The representatives remained positive about doing
business in Iraq, but believed that only if these problems
were solved, would their business volume increase beyond
prewar levels.

7. Consulate staff met with officials from Sanko Holding
investment division. Sanko Holding is a significant part of
the Gaziantep economy. Although primarily producing textiles,
they have diversified into building materials, bottled water,
cement, packing materials and films, and represent roughly
15% of the Gaziantep economy. In addition, Sanko supports a
new hospital, public school and 16 private schools in
Gaziantep. The hospital is being used by the EU to treat UN
personnel as well as Iraqis.

8. Investment Division member Hakan Ozkok expressed interest
in any possible joint ventures with American companies.
Currently, Sanko supplies the CPA with bottled water through
their association with Nestle. At the time of the meeting,
Ozkok was preparing for a trip to the US to participate in a
seminar on sustainability issues with a consortium of
bluechip companies. .

9. Another significant resource for industry is Gaziantep
University, which, according to the rector Dr. Huseyin Filiz,
is based on the Middle Eastern Technical University (METU)
model. (Located in Ankara, METU is one of the country,s
leading universities; in several departments all instruction
is in English.) At Gaziantep University, all engineering
courses are taught in English. There is a department for
teacher training in English and an American Literature and
Culture department. With the financial support of Sanko
Holding, a textile engineering department was established.

10. Consulate staff also attended the Food Fair in
Gaziantep, where an impressive array of food products, both
bulk and processed, as well as food processing machinery, was
displayed. Participants in the Fair came from all over
Southeast Turkey, as well as from the Syrian Consulate from
Aleppo. The COI President mentioned that Syria soon would
open a consulate in Gaziantep. Gaziantep has developed a
customized logo for the city itself and all Gaziantep-based
companies incorporate the stylized pistachio nut logo into
the packaging of their products and advertising. The
business people here show a cohesiveness that goes beyond
marketing their own individual products to marketing their
city as well.


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