Representative Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma) introduced new legislation on June 24, 2011 that will facilitate American Indian economic development by encouraging trade and investment relationships between tribes and Turkish companies.
Called the Indian Tribal Trade and Investment Demonstration Project Act of 2011, H.R. 2362 was referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, and a hearing on the act is expected to occur in the coming weeks.
A member of the Chickasaw Nation, Rep. Cole is the only enrolled member of an American Indian tribe in Congress. Rep. Cole co-chairs the Native American Caucus along with Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Michigan) and is a member of the Turkish Caucus.
The proposed legislation states: "Congress finds that the public and private sectors in the Republic of Turkey have demonstrated a unique interest in bolstering cultural, political, and economic relationships with Indian tribes and tribal members uneconomic regulatory, statutory, and policy barriers are preventing more robust relationships between the Turkish and Indian tribal communities; and it is in the interest of Indian tribes, the United States, and the United States–Turkey relationship to remove or ameliorate these barriers through the establishment of an Indian Tribal Trade and Investment Demonstration Project."
The Turkish Coalition of America (TCA) commended Rep. Cole on introducing the bill. "Rep. Cole's innovative legislation will bring new commercial activity to Native American tribes across the United States and further strengthen the exciting new relationship between Turkey and the Native American community," G. Lincoln McCurdy, TGA president, said in a statement.
The bill establishes a limited demonstration project that will authorize up to six tribes or tribal consortia to partner with Turkish companies to establish commercial ties without requiring federal government approval.
Turkish companies' interest in working with Indian Country, coupled with their strengths in construction, uniquely positions them to help spur private-sector economic growth and create jobs. The activities authorized by the legislation would be funded by private sector entities, without any expenditure of federal funds.
According to John Berrey, chairman of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma, "The Turkish and Native American peoples are beginning to come together under their own momentum to develop broader and deeper economic and cultural ties. Today, there is a growing interest in learning about our respective histories and beliefs. This bill will help lay the groundwork for tribes to pursue long-term economic benefits while creating new global partnerships.”
For several years now, TCA has been supporting efforts to build bridges between the American Indian and Turkish peoples.
Beginning in 2008, TCA offered scholarships to American Indian students interested in studying abroad in Turkey. Since then, TCA has worked with two of Turkey's leading institutions of higher education, Bahcesehir University and Istanbul Technical University, to develop their own scholarships for American Indian students. ITU is also designing a program to advise tribal government officials about infrastructure issues on tribal lands. Another leading institution, Hacettepe University, has organized two American Indian conferences in Ankara, cosponsored by TCA.
In November 2010, TCA organized and led the first Native ?American Business Cooperation Trip, attracting 20 leaders from 17 American Indian tribes to Turkey. The tribal representatives met with the Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs Ahmet Davutoglu and Mehmet Zafer Caglayan, the Turkish minister who oversees foreign trade. The meeting in Turkey marked the tribal leaders’ first significant overseas trade meeting, reported the Associated Press.
Caglayan met the U.S. Indian delegation in Istanbul and discussed a potential collaboration in tourism and construction. Talks with other foreign companies concerned the fields of telecommunications and the mining industry, including copper, McCurdy told the AP.
Then, in March 2011, TCA was instrumental in Turkish Deputy Minister for Foreign Trade Cemalettin Damlaci's participation at the Reservation Economic Summit and American Indian Business? Trade Fair from March 14-17 in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he was the first foreign government official to ever deliver remarks to attendees of a RES event. Along with U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan, Damlaci delivered a keynote address.
"We are seeing a true partnership between the U.S. and Turkey emerge because of H.R. 2363," McCurdy recently said. "Our two nations are already working together in promoting democracy in the Middle East, but partnering to build sustainable economies in Indian Country will further enhance the relationship.”