April 16, 2019 / 1:26 AM / 10 days ago

Turkish finance minister says he had fruitful meetings at the White House

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak said on Monday he held very productive meetings in Washington with international financial institutions, following the unveiling last week of Turkey’s economic turnaround plan.

FILE PHOTO: Turkish Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak attends a news conference in Istanbul, Turkey, April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Umit Bektas/File Photo

A source familiar with the matter said Albayrak, who is Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law, also met on Monday with White House adviser Jared Kushner, who is U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law. It was not immediately clear what the two discussed.

Albayrak has been in Washington since last Thursday, his first official visit to the U.S. capital since he took charge of the economy last July. He held a series of investor meetings and attended International Monetary Fund and World Bank spring meetings.

“This is an important week for cooperation between our two nations,” Albayrak told American and Turkish business leaders in Washington. “Since last Thursday ... my team and I held series of meetings. We had productive ones with many international finance institutions,” he said.

“Moreover, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and I discussed lots of different topics. ... This morning, I had fruitful talks in the White House with my counterparts,” he added, without giving further details.

A day before departing from Turkey, Albayrak unveiled an economic reform package in which Ankara pledged to boost the capital level of banks and relieve bad debts in a sector left reeling by last year’s currency crisis.

Turkey’s economy experienced its worst quarterly contraction in nearly a decade after the currency crisis, which sent inflation soaring as high as 25 percent and left companies and banks saddled with foreign-currency debt.

Jittery international investors have been waiting for the government to signal an unambiguous break from the credit-fueled growth strategy under Erdogan. At a private meeting in Washington last Thursday, investors left unconvinced by Albayrak’s turnaround plan.

On Monday, Albayrak said Turkey’s banking system remained ‘well-capitalized’ and continued to offer credit. He said there would be complimentary policy actions after last week’s reform program to boost growth potential.

“There’s never been a better time to invest in Turkey,” he said, adding the United States and Turkey should do more to boost bilateral trade. He acknowledged the two NATO allies had disagreements.

“We need to strengthen our resilience partnership despite our policy differences,” he said. Washington and Ankara have been at loggerheads over a range of issues, the most recent being Turkey’s planned purchase of a Russian air defense missile system.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Additional reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Peter Cooney

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