Deal sees hope for growth in trade with Turkey

Gov. Nathan Deal said Thursday that Georgia is well-positioned to see serious growth in trade with Turkey.

Deal said in a telephone interview from the Turkish port city of Mersin that his counterparts in that country are eager to increase its exports to the United States through the port of Savannah.

"They ship in about $200 million from Turkey and we export about $600 million from Georgia into Turkey," Deal told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "They would like to see that trade imbalance become a little more favorable."

Georgia is the seventh-leading exporter to Turkey among U.S. states and has seen triple-digit growth in exports this year, state officials said.

Deal said he and state officials have told Turkish business interests that both sides would benefit from that expansion. Georgia primarily exports cotton, peanuts, paper products and poultry to Turkey and Georgia-made Gulfstream jets are used by top Turkish officials.

One sector where Deal sees the potential for growth in Georgia exports is pecans.

"They have pistachios, which is one of their staples; almonds; and hazelnuts," Deal said. "They don't have pecans."

The state, Deal said, recently has begun selling pecans to India and China and believes Turkey represents a huge potential market.

Turkey already has targeted Georgia as one of six states with which it plans to increase trade.

"We have to educate them about where Georgia is and what the potential is," Deal said.

While no new deals have been finalized, Deal said he was optimistic results will come from his trip, which ends Friday. Muhtar Kent, the Turkish-American CEO of Coke, is with Deal on the trip, as are executives with Gulfstream, Georgia Power and Delta Airlines, in addition to state economic development and higher education officials.

"We think [the fact] that they've already recognized that Georgia is an area where they can grow business helps us a lot," Deal said. "We don’t have to convince them we’re a significant state."