November 4, 2011, Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, the House Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs met to discuss H.R. 2362, the Indian Tribal Trade and Investment Act, and to hear testimony from witnesses including Turkish Coalition of America president G. Lincoln McCurdy.
The subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Don Young (R-AK), and ranking member, Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK), expressed their early support for the bill, which will facilitate Native American economic development by encouraging the development of trade and investment relationships between Native American tribes and Turkish companies.
The next step in the bill’s progress toward enactment will be for the full Natural Resources Committee to hold a markup session to recommend any changes to the bill. McCurdy believes the bill has the potential to receive a full committee vote by the end of November, which would send the bill to the full House for a final vote.
In his testimony, McCurdy emphasized that the legislation promotes job creation in areas where unemployment peaks at 80 percent, without requiring any federal funds.
“Turkish foreign direct investment exceeded $21 billion in 2010,” McCurdy said. “The Turkish construction industry currently has 6,000 projects underway in more than 91 countries. In Egypt alone, Turkish investment has created more than 40,000 jobs.” He added that Turkey’s strong economy and its focus on foreign direct involvement puts it in a unique position to positively affect Indian Country.
During the hearing, Representative Tom Cole (R-OK), a member of the Chickasaw Nation and the author of the bill, stressed the need to spur economic development in Indian Country. “Statistically, Indians are the most impoverished group of people in our country and suffer from the highest rates of unemployment,'' he said. "Currently, economic development on tribal land is hampered by a restrictive and archaic leasing system.''
John Berrey, Chairman of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma, testified about his positive experience on the TCA-sponsored Native American Business Cooperation Trip to Turkey in November 2010.
“I was amazed by the country, the people, and I believe this is a great opportunity not only for any country, but especially the Turkish Republic,” Berrey said. “It’s a great opportunity to forge relationships with a country that wants to be our partners. They really truly love Native Americans and it’s refreshing to have a country that’s across the globe feel that way, and anything we can do to cultivate that relationship would be fantastic.”
H.R. 2362 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.