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Pritzker Travels Europe And Asia On Commercial Diplomacy Tour

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Conflicts continue in the Middle East in Ukraine, but that doesn't mean business has to come to a halt. As the U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker recently put it to Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko, let's not waste a good crisis. Secretary Pritzker reportedly said that these times of stress and change can hasten reforms that will encourage companies to do business in Ukraine.

After Ukraine, she was off to Poland, then on to Turkey on a tour of what's called commercial diplomacy. Secretary Pritzker joins us from her office in Washington, D.C. Thanks so much for being with us.

SECRETARY OF COMMERCE PENNY PRITZKER: Thank you, Scott.

SIMON: Secretary Pritzker, explain to us the - if that's what it is - the kind of dance you have to go through between talking to people in Ukraine or Turkey. Or for that matter, I would imagine you have to spend some time with the American businesspeople to say, look, this might not seem like a stable environment, but there's opportunity here.

PRITZKER: Well, the first step is for leaders like President Poroshenko and Prime Minister Yaksenyuk to recognize that they need to create an environment where businesses want to come and do business. Now obviously Ukraine is in a real transition at this moment. But what I was trying to say with the idea of don't waste the crisis is do the things that, you know, where your parliament can take action. Begin to address the fundamentals so that as the military crisis recedes, which we're hopeful that that happens, you're setting yourself up to where more businesses - and we hope American businesses - will come and be present in Ukraine.

SIMON: You met with President Erdogan of Turkey. I think a lot of Americans may wonder, given the sensitive nature of the relationship United States and Turkey have at the moment, does anybody say or does anybody need to - you help us out with this action we're undertaking an ISIS, and we can help you out with your business questions?

PRITZKER: Well, we talk in general about the breadth of the relationship. I'm not going to suggest there are specific trades. But the existence of both countries, both on a military, diplomatic and economic standpoint, are intertwined. And what was particularly helpful in our conversations was a number of the issues that our American businesses were raising with the Turkish leadership are the same issues the Turkish businesses are raising with their own government. And my view is you're working together as partners that it can be beneficial both to the companies but also to U.S.-Turkish policy. And that's really commercial diplomacy at work.

SIMON: You're headed to Japan and South Korea. A lot of commercial relationships obviously between United States in those two countries. What's your message there?

PRITZKER: Well, our messages is that we have terrific relationships with both countries and they're great allies. But the question is, you know, our trade relationship is not growing at the kind of the rate that we would like to see it. You know, you have Prime Minister Abe who is trying very hard to rejuvenate Japan's economy. And we want, as one of Japan's closest allies, if not the closest ally, we want to participate in helping see both Japan welcome foreign direct investment and welcome our exports. But also we want to welcome the Japanese to investing here in the United States - all of which are good for both economies.

SIMON: U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker speaking with us before she heads off to Asia. Thanks very much for being with us.

PRITZKER: Thank you, Scott, very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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