Native American tribes seek trade ties with Turkey

Associated Press
Followed by a Turkish army officer, Patricia Whitefoot of Yakama Nation and President of National Indian Education Association, front, leads a delegation of Native Americans who represent 17 tribes from at least 10 U.S. states, during a visit to the mausoleum of the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in Ankara, Turkey,  Thursday, Nov. 11,  2010. Native American tribal leaders seeking trade ties with Turkish companies have offered them tax incentives to operate in their territories in the United States, the organizers of the trip said Thursday.(AP Photo/Selcan Hacaoglu)

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Native American tribal leaders and businessmen seeking trade ties with Turkish companies have offered them tax incentives to operate in their territories in the United States, the organizer of the trip said Thursday.

Native American businessmen are increasingly seeking global business partnerships to create jobs and new businesses in their territories. They have held talks with Chinese, Spanish and Australian companies, but their tribal leaders' trip to Turkey was the first large-scale overseas exploration of new trade ties, they said.

Lincoln McCurdy, president of the Turkish Coalition of America, which organized the trip, said Thursday that the Native American tribes belong to sovereign nations that can strike their own trade deals and offer special tax incentives.

"Native Americans are becoming global minded," said McCurdy, adding that they already have held talks with foreign companies to do business in telecommunications and mining industry, including copper.

The delegation, representing 17 tribes from at least 10 U.S. states, has been welcomed by the Turkish government, which wants to bolster trade ties with the United States, a key ally and Turkey's seventh largest trading partner.

"This is a new day for opportunities, both for Turks and native Americans," said John Berrey, chairman of the Quapaw Tribe based in Oklahoma in the United States. "Native Americans can provide Turkish companies a foothold in the United States."

Turkey has been seeking preferential trade treatment from Washington. Two-way trade stands at $11.8 billion.

Zafer Caglayan, the minister who oversees foreign trade, met the U.S. Indian delegation in Istanbul earlier this week and discussed areas of possible cooperation in tourism and construction. Turkish builders are active across the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa, building dams, stadiums and highways.

The Indian delegation was scheduled to visit the Turkish Contractors Association in Ankara on Thursday.

"Ten years from now, I hope that we will be meeting as business partners, not just people pursuing business opportunities," Michael Finley, chairman of the Tribes of Colville Reservation in eastern Washington state, said after meeting the minister in Istanbul.

The delegation, including seven tribal leaders, chief executive officers of Native American companies, casino operators and Indian affairs experts, also visited some Turkish universities to discuss scholarships available to support Native Americans.

The Turkish Coalition of America offers its own scholarships to study in Turkey to up to 100 American minority students each year.

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