Vote on Turkish investment will have a detrimental impact on Californian jobs and growth

TurkeyIt is a proud part of California’s identity that if it were an independent nation, it would be the sixth largest economy in the world.

California is a driving force behind American progress and an international powerhouse in its own right. The people of California rightly understand their place and responsibility in the world. That is why a bill currently before the California state Senate is so disappointing and needlessly damaging – and why it should not go forward. Assembly Bill 1597, which is designed to cut off investment into Turkey, will dent and undermine California’s business credentials on the world stage and have a direct, detrimental impact on Californian jobs and growth.

For many Californians, the country of Turkey is not on the top of their radar. However, while 10,000 miles apart, we are increasingly bound together.

Most of the California-based multi-national corporations have regional offices as well as production or co-production facilities in Turkey. There are also over 200 small-to-medium sized Californian companies that operate in Turkey. Furthermore, there are around 100 companies here in California that are owned by Turkish Americans and approximately 2,500 jobs have been created in California by Turkish companies.

It is one of the reasons Turkey is one of the top 10 fastest growing homes to American foreign investment. AB1597 focuses on tragic events that took place 100 years ago, the importance of which cannot be understated. Yet it fails to recognize the world today. As business owners, we need to operate in the present. We have a duty to our employees and consumers in both countries. And we also have ambition – ambition to help Turkey grow and develop, and to play a part in California’s and America’s success.

With a population of 80 million people, Turkey is currently one of the fastest growing economies in the world. And the committed partnership between our two nations has meant that the U.S. is now the second largest investor in Turkey, and in turn, the level of exports from American businesses to Turkish consumers has increased from $3 billion to $12 billion over the past decade.

There are currently 1,400 American firms doing business in Turkey, with 60 firms using Turkey as their regional headquarters. The Turkish market has served as a great partner for America. And we see it as only just having gotten started. Turkey’s economy has seen steady growth for 15 successive years, at an average of 5.6 percent, and is now the largest recipient of foreign direct investment in the region. There is no sign of it slowing down. Turkey is expected to be one of the fastest growing economies among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development members through 2025.

This success provides remarkable opportunities – our market is ripe for investors and partnerships from California. Unless this bill passes. That said, we do not wish for our speaking out to cause any further grief or to add fuel to this controversy, but it is our responsibility to point out that penalizing Turkey’s modern-day private sector is not a reasonable course of action in an attempt to bring solace to those who mourn the events of the past. Rather than looking to the past, let’s look to the future – and see what we can achieve together.

Ayşecan Özyeğin Oktay sits on the board of Stanford Graduate School of Business Management and is an Executive Board Member of Fiba Group, a family-owned conglomerate active in 12 countries. She is also the California Chair of the Turkey-U.S. Business Council.