by Gila Benmayor

Hurriyet Daily News
Dec 28 2011

In the crisis between France and Turkey following the French
Parliament Lower House decision to criminalize the denial of the
Armenian genocide, the most prudent statement came from Economy
Minister Zafer Caglayan. He said Turkey will not impose an embargo
on France and will not restrict trade.

The data from the Turkish-French Commerce Association visiting Paris
just before the vote at the French Parliament with delegations from
Turkish Industry & Business Association (TUSİAD) and Turkish Union
of Chambers and Commodities Exchanges (TOBB) demonstrates how relevant
Caglayan's words of "no embargo" were.

As the letter the association sent to French President Nicolas Sarkozy
and ministers stated, the trade volume between Turkey and France is
currently 12 billion euros. Of this total, 6.5 billion euros comprise
French exports to Turkey.

Investments of more than 400 French companies operating in Turkey
for years exceed $15 billion.

As General Manager of Renault Mais İbrahim Aybar pointed out,
the electric Fluence ZE, which the Ankara Metropolitan Mayor Melih
Gökcek cancelled the purchase of after the crisis broke out, was
the product of Turkish workers' labor. Fifty percent of the car is
made up of locally produced parts.

While the Ankara mayor is boycotting the electric Renault vehicle, he
is punishing both the Turkish worker and the local car parts producer.

He is punishing the Ankara residents who are yearning to breathe
clean air and also an Ankara that would have a somewhat lower carbon
dioxide count in its air with the use of electric cars.

When the crisis broke, we had heard from top officials, primarily
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, that the campaign against France
was not going to target the French people but the Sarkozy government.

However, it does not occur as such in practical terms. As we can
see from what is happening, what the politicians say has a multiplied
effect on the public. I can also see this in the emails I have received
since the crisis broke out.

I will refer to two examples: The call from Chef Mehmet Yalcınkaya
saying, "Even though we chefs are influenced by the French food
culture, we should boycott this country," received a positive reply
from Turkish Federation of Cooks (TAFED). The federation has declared
it will not be using French products.

The second example is the "strange decision" made by the restaurant
"Le Pecheur" (Fisherman), which has been operating in Istanbul's
Tarabya district for 22 years.

According to the message I received via email yesterday, the restaurant
has decided to remove its French name.

I don't know, I guess "Le Pecheur" will go and the Turkish for
fisherman, "Balıkcı," will come instead.

This kind of a "beyond any measure" reaction makes me feel unsettled.

The French high school I graduated from has a scheduled 156th
anniversary Jan. 20. Now the alumni association of the French
high school is troubled on how it will make its printed ads of the

However, the Turkish-French Commerce Association reminds us of this
fact: The motion which has passed the Lower House has to be approved
in the Senate.

Nobody should doubt that TOBB, TUSİAD and the Turkish-French Commerce
Association will continue their lobbying activities to prevent a
negative decision from the Senate.

It is good to remain on the "cool" side.