The US and Turkey have been NATO allies since 1952, and our economic and military relationships are flourishing. Trade between the two countries grew by 45% in 2011 alone, to the benefit of both the American and the Turkish people. In June of 2009 President Barack Obama announced our intent to deepen ties between American entrepreneurs and their counterparts from countries around the world that have significant Muslim populations. Nearly a year later, the first Global Entrepreneurship Summit brought innovators from 50 nations to meet in Washington, DC. At the summit, President Obama said, ”We’ve come together today because of what we share, a belief that we are all bound together by certain common aspirations – to live in dignity, to get an education, to live healthy lives and maybe start a business without having to pay tribute or a bribe to anyone, to speak freely and have a say in how we are governed, to live in peace and security and to give our children a better future.” So we might ask the question: what does entrepreneurship have to do with those larger aspirations? Entrepreneurship must be built on solid foundations. This includes a political system that guarantees basic liberties, including the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion; an educational system that trains its students to challenge established orthodoxy, and an economic system that encourages fair competition and rewards those who excel. These foundations have enabled generations of Americans and others to give life to world-changing ideas. It is no coincidence that the most prosperous countries in the world are also the most entrepreneurial countries in the world. This is the group Turkey aspires to join. A remarkable economic success story is unfolding in Turkey – the economy has tripled in size over the past decade, exports have quadrupled and per capita income has grown dramatically – allowing families to build better lives for themselves and for their children. Turkey is cultivating its own brand of homegrown talents, but it will need a collective effort by society. Established entrepreneurs and chambers of commerce must mentor the next generation, sharing the wisdom gained by their successes and their failures. Universities and corporations must work together through research and internships to nurture and develop the entrepreneurial skills of students. Investors must occasionally be willing to take a chance on an unknown talent and an unproven dream. And governments must unlock the commercial marketplace by facilitating access to capital, removing cumbersome regulations and ending corrupt practices that stifle competition.
In eight countries and territories, including Turkey, we have launched a programme called Partnership for a New Beginning, which brings together government, private sector and civil society leaders to build and deepen engagement in areas of economic opportunity, science and technology, and education. The US is particularly focused on encouraging women entrepreneurs, because societies that deny women basic rights are squandering half of their intellectual capital. Study after study has shown that those nations that refuse to empower women’s participation in economic affairs are being left behind. Already, in the developing world, almost half of new businesses are women-owned.
We’re also fulfilling a pledge President Obama made in Cairo to build networks of entrepreneurs and expand exchanges in education and to foster cooperation in science and technology. We have led delegations of businesspeople and investors to Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Indonesia, Morocco and Algeria. We also understand that in these exchanges the US stands to learn something, because the seeds of innovation and change do not rest in the US alone.
The objective is to see nations grow in a secure fashion. We as a country benefit when democracies flourish. I am optimistic about the future because I see that a new generation of entrepreneurs has a chance, like no other generation before it, to set the course of direction for the world, to steer it, to bend the curve in the direction of progress, openness, and humanity.
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