Turkish businessman lobbied U.S. cabinet for stronger trade ties with Turkey - report

Turkish government linked businessman Mehmet Ali Yalçındağ has lobbied with White House cabinet members to increase trade between the United States and Turkey, said Adam Klasfeld, a reporter for U.S.-based Courthouse News.

Both countries have aimed to increase the volume of trade in recent years to no avail.

“Well before COVID-19 and the new set of economic and partnership needs created by this crisis, (U.S. Presdent Donald) Trump and (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdoğan spoke in November 2019 of expanding annual trade between our countries to $100 billion dollars,” Klasfeld said, quoting a letter sent by Yalçındağ to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue as saying.

Yalçındağ’s letter, which he said was copied to Trump, told Perdue that U.S. agricultural exports to Turkey would be “a major step” in achieving this.

Yalçındağ sent two similar letters to Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Klasfeld said, pitching Brouillette to supply liquefied natural gas to Turkey and Ross to turn towards Turkey for Personal Protective Equipment.

“During the current crisis, Turkish manufacturers demonstrated the nimbleness and skill needed to quickly adapt to market needs,” Yalçındağ wrote.

Yalçındağ is known for his ties with the Trump family, having managed the Trump Towers in Istanbul which opened in 2012. Yalçındağ is also dubbed as the third son-in-law in the Turkish-U.S. relationship that has engineered back channels, according to earlier reports by Ahval and some leading U.S. media outlets, including the New York Times.

Yalçındağ was appointed to be head of the Turkey-U.S. Business Council (TAİK) in 2018, preceded by another businessman linked to the Erdoğan government, Ekim Alptekin.

Alptekin was appointed to the helm of the TAİK in 2014 but had to withdraw from a second term after becoming a fugitive in the U.S. Justice system, having been named by the defendants in case linked to Trump’s first National Security Adviser Mike Flynn.