Posted at 10:45 AM
As a member of the President’s Export Council (PEC), I had the good fortune of going to Poland and Turkey with a group led by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker along with CEOs from Archer Daniels Midland, Lockheed Martin, Marriott, UPS, Vermeer and Xerox as well as representatives from other member firms. The PEC, comprised of companies with an aggregate market capital of over $850 billion, chose Poland and Turkey for our inaugural trip with the Secretary as we view these countries, first and foremost, as high priority economically important growth markets in addition to being strategically significant.
During the trip I wore two hats: one as an ambassador for US businesses broadly promoting the President’s National Export Initiative and US foreign direct investment priorities and, second, as a businessman in representing a cross-border advisory on a fact finding mission to explore Poland and Turkey as good places to enhance our business relationships and our client’s growth initiatives.
I learned that both Poland and Turkey want many of the same things as the US: transparency, public/private partnerships, infrastructure investment, an all-in energy approach and a skilled labor force/education.
What I found while visiting with both public and private leaders was that there are some incredible market opportunities for US businesses. Given the impressive strides both countries have made in recent years, I am not particularly surprised.
Poland is the 6th largest (and growing) economy in the European Union, approaching the size of Spain. Since the fall of Communism in 1989, American FDI in Poland has totaled $11 billion, Polish FDI in America has totaled $2 billion, and over 800 US firms operate in Poland.
Turkey is the 17th largest economy in the world. Per capita GDP has tripled since 2002 and is projected to grow another 3-4% next year. More than 1,000 U.S. companies of all sizes are already here and total foreign direct investment in Turkey has increased eight-fold since 2003.
This being said there are business challenges that we need to address if we are to strengthen partnerships and increase investment between the US and Poland and the US and Turkey. We had frank and constructive discussions on enhancing trade, building public private partnerships, and the need for more transparency and “rule of law.”
What this trip reinforced is that our business leaders have a role to play in deepening US economic ties around the world. Bottom line: relationships matter, commercial diplomacy is essential and building bridges is a marathon not a sprint.