The cooperation between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan is reaching a new level, and relations between the two countries are improving rapidly. The 2018 is declared the Year of Uzbekistan in Kazakhstan. On March 15 Presidents Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Nursultan Nazarbayev officially opened it in Astana.Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are the key countries in building a prosperous future for Central Asia. Common historical roots and culture, close human ties, economic factors and geopolitics create a solid foundation for cooperation. Due to the opening of a wide window of opportunities for maximum realization of the potential of Uzbek-Kazakh cooperation at a new historical stage, the journal «Economic Digest of Uzbekistan» publishes an interview of its editor-in-chief with the Director of the Institute of World Economy and Politics under the Foundation of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan «Elbasy», Yerzhan Aidarovich SALTYBAYEV.
– Yerzhan Aydarovich, today both countries are in the process of active restructuring of their economic model from the one depending on mainly raw materials to service-industrial. However, the limited domestic market pushes to seek new export directions. Tell us what are the prospects for economic cooperation in our countries?
– First, I must say that for Kazakhstan Uzbekistan is the most receptive market in the Central Asian region. In turn for Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan is a key trading partner in the region. Moreover, it is Kazakhstan that can consume such Uzbek products, for which there is not enough demand in other Central Asian countries. To move the economy away from dependence on raw materials, Kazakhstan intends to increase its cooperation with neighboring countries, primarily with Uzbekistan. Whereas raw materials are mainly supplied to foreign countries, the non-resource based export, as well as almost all high-tech industries are associated with the neighboring economies. In this regard, Uzbekistan becomes a crucial partner of Kazakhstan.
The 2017 statistics of the bilateral trade between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan demonstrated that the trade turnover amounted to more than 2 billion USD, an increase of 31.2% compared to 2016. At the same time, exports from Kazakhstan increased by 35%, reaching 1.3 billion USD, and imports from Uzbekistan increased by 25.1% to 735.2 million USD.
Such dynamics of development of bilateral trade allows the governments of the two countries to set ambitious goals – to increase the volume of bilateral trade to 5 billion USD by 2020. And both countries have every opportunity to do so. Thus, compared to the first quarter of last year, the volume of trade in the first quarter of 2018 increased by 46%, and reached 543.1 million USD. As a result, by the end of the year the trade turnover between the two countries could reach 3 billion USD.
Such a rapid growth in trade turnover has become possible due to the warming of relations between the two countries and bringing them to the level of strategic partnership. In 2017, a series of meetings of Kazakh and Uzbek leaders took place. Six joint events were held, during which the strategic cooperation of the two countries was discussed, which, first of all, should begin with an increase in economic cooperation between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
The Special Intergovernmental Commission has also intensified its work. Thus, following the results of its 17th meeting, the decision was adopted on the development of trade and economic cooperation on 14 issues, and cooperation in the field of transport — on 11 issues. It was decided to expand the range of goods in bilateral trade, reduce excise taxes on supplied products. Another important achievement was the decision to create a special «green corridor» to facilitate the bilateral trade.
The successful dialogue between the leaders of the two countries affected the interaction of business between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. In 2017, two major business forums were held at once, in which leading companies of both countries participated, and investment agreements worth one billion USD were signed. Last year, the activity of bilateral trading houses in machine-building, agriculture, pharmaceutical and chemical industries also intensified. This demonstrates a consistency and focus on long-term projects in trade cooperation.
– Tell us what are the areas of common interest currently in the economic partnership between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan? And what do you think gives a new impetus to the development of relations?
The new strategic cooperation between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan is based on three main areas – trade, investment and transport and logistics complex.
Trade. The liberalization of cross-border trade regulations has benefited contacts on both sides of the border. At the same time, the growth of trade turnover was achieved not only by increasing the exchange of goods for existing positions, Kazakh and Uzbek businessmen have discovered a completely new market niche. Thus, Kazakhstan has identified 38 new commodity positions in such spheres of economy as: chemical and food industry, metallurgy and mechanical engineering. The export of rails (50 thousand tons is planned to be delivered by 2030), batteries (50 thousand per year), transformers, etc., is planned to start from Kazakhstan.
In Central Asia Uzbekistan is the country with the largest population of 32 million people. The Uzbek market is one of the most promising for the export of Kazakh products of non-resource sector of the economy. Potentially, the Uzbek market can become one of the main ones for the entire Kazakh economy. The same is true about the Kazakh market for Uzbek business.
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