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President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ahead of his May 16 visit to the U.S., the first time since President Donald Trump’s election, has elaborated on a number of important issues that will be on his agenda, including expanding defense cooperation in between two countries.

Travelling to the U.S. from China, after attending the Silk Road Summit on May 15, Erdoğan will discuss regional and international economic and political issues, including the Syrian crisis, boosting trade volume between Turkey and U.S. and enhancing partnership in the defense industry.

In his keynote address at the Atlantic Council Istanbul Summit Friday, President Erdoğan underscored his belief that a new chapter in Turkey-U.S. relations will be opened during Donald Trump’s presidency.

President Erdoğan said expanding trade volume between Turkey and the U.S., which stood at $17.5 billion in 2016, will be a significant item on the agenda.

“The U.S. is ranked second among countries that have the most amount of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Turkey and the trade volume between the two countries was recorded at $17.5 billion in 2016, which does not reflect the real potential,” he said.

The president highlighted that Turkey wants to see more U.S. firms benefit from the investment opportunities in Turkey, adding that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEİK) and the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) should work to expand their presence that would improve bilateral trade and economic relations between Turkey and the U.S.

The most advantageous item to expand the trade volume between the two countries, Erdoğan stated, is more collaboration in the defense industry.

“We need to take common steps in the defense industry with the U.S. But, all the endeavors to secure more partnership in the sector have been stalled by the U.S. Congress so far. I hope that Congress will pave the way for increased partnership in the defense industry between the two countries over the upcoming period and as two members of the NATO, we will be able to take different steps in this industry,” Erdoğan said.



A glance at Turkey-U.S. cooperation in the defense industry

In March 2017, Turkish defense and aviation exports to the U.S. were recorded at an approximately $11.7 million with a striking 958 percent increase compared to the same period the previous year.

This tremendous increase can be construed as an indicator worth considering when Erdoğan designated defense industry collaborations as the most important item in expanding trade volume between the two allies.

Furthermore, Turkey is the 13th largest importer of U.S. defense goods based on 2015 Census Bureau data. It maintains the second largest land forces in NATO and operates the second largest fleet of F-16s, after the United States, leading to significant opportunities for military vehicle and aircraft parts manufacturers.

In 2011, Lockheed Martin, a U.S.-based global security and aerospace company engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration, and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products, and services, and Turkish HAVELSAN signed a memorandum of agreement to collaborate on naval combat systems in 2011.

Since then, the companies have worked together to develop interfaces between their respective system components and have combined their technologies in laboratory environment.

Lockheed Martin is not the only U.S. defense company which has collaborated with Turkey’s HAVELSAN. Earlier, Boeing, the prime contractor for the U.S. government’s Ground-based Midcourse Defense and Airborne Laser programs signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with HAVELSAN in order to pursue regional and global ballistic missile defense solutions.

Moreover, in 2014, Roketsan (Rocket Industry and Trading Limited Company) and Lockheed Martin signed a teaming agreement for collaboration on the SOM-J, a new generation air-to-surface Standoff Cruise Missile for the F-35 Lightning II.

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