The Turkish Coalition of America (TCA) on May 27 concluded its 14th Congressional delegation to Turkey. Since 2009, TCA has taken 133 members of Congress and senior staff to Turkey and its neighboring countries.
The delegation, comprised of four senior staffers from the offices of Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Rep. Tim Holden (D-Pa.), Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), had the opportunity to meet with business executives, leaders of the non-profit community, government officials, academia, and minority religious leaders during their visit to Istanbul, Ankara, Gaziantep and Patara.
While in Istanbul, the delegation attended the Global Leadership Conference, where TCA president G. Lincoln McCurdy spoke on the role of Turkish Americans in American political life.
From there, the group traveled to Ankara to discuss current US-Turkey relations and avenues for strengthening ties, including increased trade and economic partnerships. In meetings with American and Turkish officials they were given first-hand insight into Turkey's economic potential, the structure of foreign trade relations, and broader regional foreign policy issues at Turkey's Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In Gaziantep, Turkey's seventh-largest city, the delegation met with Gaziantep's Chamber of Commerce to discuss U.S.-Turkey trade relations. Located on the ancient Silk Road, Gaziantep has been a commercial hub for thousands of years and today ranks sixth in the list of top export cities. It is also a major hub for trade between Turkey and Syria and has been deeply impacted by the violence in Syria. Since the crisis began this crucial city has been a safe haven for thousands of Syrian refugees.
The delegation discussed this important issue in meetings with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the organization leading the efforts to settle and care for the more than 23,000 refugees in Turkey.The group also discussed the educational programs of the Mother-Child Education Foundation, a Turkish NGO, and was introduced to Turkey's education system in meetings with the 239 year-old Istanbul Technical University (ITU), a university known for its outstanding engineering and architecture programs. Students from different disciplines shared many of their current projects, including a solar-powered boat.
Finally, the delegation visited the fully restored parliament building in Patara, the birthplace of representative democracy and the model for the chambers of the U.S. Congress today.