Speaking to Sunday’s Zaman, Staples, who is responsible for APCO Worldwide’s operations in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, China and Southeast Asia, noted that the company has two principle interests in Turkey, and one of them is the number of clients that asked the company to establish a presence in Turkey, adding, “Because they are looking to expand their investments and build their businesses here but need a guide or partner to help them deal with political and business obstacles.” He pointed out Turkey’s potential for becoming a hub in the region as the second reason the company opened an office in İstanbul, stating, “Clients in the Arab world, Central Asia and the Black sea region as well as Europe are increasingly looking at Turkey from a geostrategic point of view with regard to opportunities for business.”
Turkey attracted nearly 60 percent more foreign direct investment in 2011, at $15.7 billion, over the previous year.
Staples explained APCO is compelled to see the energy sector as part of its customer base because there is so much happening in Turkey in that area and stated: “I think it will probably be an equal measure oil and gas, nuclear and the renewable sector because we have a significant push from clients in the renewable and the nuclear area to become more engaged in Turkey; also, big opportunities in health care and fast-moving consumer goods are present.” He noted he has talked to a number of people in the government and the financial community about Turkey’s ambitions to make İstanbul an international financial center (IFC) and recommended that Turkey do more to make the case more effectively. Commenting on that, he said, “I think internationally there is a failure to appreciate just how significant an IFC in Turkey could be and how key it is not only for future development in Turkey and the region as well as a new hub for finance in the region, Caucasus, Central Asia and north into Russia,” and added, “We are excited about that and we are going to actively pursue our engagement to help and support Turkey’s ambitions to build an IFC.” Recalling the two days he spent in meetings with business and political leaders in Turkey, Staples reflected, “We have been exceptionally impressed by the insights, know-how, commitment and focus of ministers and political leaders in Turkey and, more importantly, the problems and challenges that face Turkey are as significant, if not greater in some respects than other European countries, but the way Turkey is tackling these issues, with a degree of optimism and positive determination, is what is lacking in Europe at the moment.”
He suggested international investors work in partnership with the Turkish government. “Our clients need guidance, direction and support in terms of policy change and regulatory improvement if they are going to be successful here, and if a partnership is established with the government, companies are going to be lot more successful in reaching … their consumer audience.” Staples also highlighted the need for local insight, expertise and guidance in order for investors to succeed in Turkey, as it is a challenging market for many businesses due to the scale and nature of economic development, which is not equal across the country. Staples stated, “It is too easy to view Turkey from İstanbul and too simplistic to view the politics of Turkey from Ankara [the capital].”
Staples added that he is pleased to see many global brands, such as CNN and Bloomberg, established in Turkey. He expressed that “some of the most innovative and exciting media in this part of the world is in Turkey, and also seeing newspapers like Today’s Zaman, which established itself as a commentator in [an] international context [in terms of] what’s going on in Turkey but also internationally,” is beneficial for businesspeople so they can read what is in the Turkish press in the English language and form a much better appreciation and understanding of the issues in Turkey.
Staples recalled the words of former US Ambassador to Morocco Marc Ginsberg, that is, if the business of Turkey is business, then its international challenges will take care of themselves, and added that if commercial considerations and long-term developments are at the hearth of Turkey’s foreign policy, then the country stands a greater chance of success and the challenges will take care of themselves.
He concluded that Turkey should look for people internationally who have had a positive, successful experience building a business in Turkey to become advocates for the country, as well as third parties that believe in what Turkey has been doing and have confidence in the political stability and economic growth here. “If Turkey … achieves what we hope in the coming years, it will be more than a bridge -- it will be a center for the best practice in terms of communications globally. It will be one of our hubs for the future, and that’s our expectation and aspiration.”