Thursday, May 20, 2010

US Move To Enhance Central Asian Export Import Freight Trade

Recent Meeting Aims to Promote Growth in All Areas
Shipping News Feature

UZBEKISTAN - KAZAKHSTAN - TURKMENISTAN - KYRGYSTAN – TAJIKISTAN – A forum designed to promote growth in the Central Asian region, the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), met earlier this month in Tashkent to attempt to develop the commitments made at the previous meeting in Washington in October. The Uzbekistan capital is particularly suitable as the country shares borders with all the other states, as well as Afghanistan.

US leaders are keen to promote growth in Central Asia given the nature of problems which have developed in other nearby states and the proximity to China. Representatives from governments across Central Asia gave presentations on some of the most important business opportunities in their countries, ranging from mining projects in Afghanistan to expansion of Caspian Sea port facilities in Turkmenistan and the creation of the Free Industrial Economic Zone in Navoi, Uzbekistan. USTR Director for Central Asia Michael Feldman highlighted the importance of public-private partnerships, especially in the area of transportation, to facilitate regional trade.

The U.S. delegation discussed potential opportunities for Central Asian businesses from the expansion of the Northern Distribution Network that supplies reconstruction and development materials to Afghanistan through Central Asia. It was announced that Tashkent would be the first stop in a series of U.S. government-sponsored seminars to brief local suppliers. There was a report from a delegation from the Government of Afghanistan, official observers at the meeting, detailing the “significant progress” made in the country recently. These include major development projects such as road building and the Uzbekistan-backed projects of building a railroad to Mazar-i-Sharif and providing electricity to Kabul. The U.S. delegation announced the start of a series of seminars on opportunities for Central Asian companies to supply products to Afghanistan.

Opening the Working Group meeting, Ambassador Richard Norland said:

“It is fitting that we should come together in Tashkent following the Asian Development Bank Annual Meeting, where the focus was clearly on the importance of regional economic cooperation to the future of Asia. Our TIFA is one mechanism to support this process and to build trade and investment ties between the region and the United States.”

Delegation head Madelyn Spirnak said:

“The U.S. Government attaches great importance to the TIFA as a mechanism for improving the business and investment climate in the region and for increasing trade between the United States and Central Asia. Our Tashkent meeting successfully brought together government and business to advance our economic partnership.”

Trade and Investment Frameworks are often used, particularly by US administrations, as a way to stimulate reciprocal trade growth, often in hostile markets. The are sometimes used as a precursor to free trade agreements which are generally accepted as good initial trade growth stimulants and, given the US foreign policy situation of late, investment in Central Asian infrastructure and development of mutually beneficial trade would be more than welcome.

Photo: Ambassador Norland speaks at the meeting. To his left are U.S. delegation head Madelyn Spirnak and Nasriddin Najimov, Uzbekistan’s First Deputy Minister for Foreign Economic Relations.

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