Since its inception, economic diplomacy has been part of Kazakhstan’s foreign policy as a key mechanism for achieving productive economic and trade relations at bilateral and multilateral levels. It remains a key tool for the development of effective cooperation between countries and regions on the global level.
It is not a secret that economic factors have the most significant impact on the formation of foreign policy. Protection and promotion of economic interests are critical components of ensuring national interests in the foreign policy of any country.
Today, comprehensive tools are being developed for promoting trade and economic diplomacy for our country. At the state level, a programme for attraction of investments, development of special economic zones and export promotion was adopted and is being implemented,while a national export strategy is also being developed.
To evaluate the work to attract investments, the programme targets all indicators of the state apparatus, from diplomatic missions and central government agencies to local akimats. The system is built so that each minister, ambassador and akimis responsible for the attraction of foreign investments. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) acts through a network of foreign missions abroad as a first contact point as well as a link between the foreign business community and local partners in Kazakhstan.
We identified 26 top countries as investors with which deep economic cooperation is being built in the implementation of investment projects and transfer of new technologies. The nations include those of the European Union, the United States, China, Turkey, Japan and South Korea.
Interested state agencies and the business communities of Kazakhstan are kept informed about the events organised and held abroad, such as IPC, business councils, business forums and exhibitions. Within the framework of events, informational and promotional materials about Kazakhstan, like the Investors’ Guide, brochures and booklets, as well as references to websites, are distributed. This promotes awareness among foreign investors about prospects for doing business in our country and the attractiveness of the investment climate.
Regular round tables andseminars with the participation of foreign business groups and the diplomatic corps promote dialogue between the government of Kazakhstan and international business communities. Last year alone, such events covered topics such as the protection of the rights of foreign investors, the governmental support in the development of SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) and simplifying procedures for hiring foreign labour, including visa and migration issues.
The positions of advisers on investment, technology and trade seconded by the economic ministries, such as the Ministry of Industry and New Technologies and the Ministry of Economy and Budget Planning, have been introduced inKazakh diplomatic missionsin several countries such as Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Russia, China, France, and Germany. The issue of opening Kazakh trade and investment missions in some of the largest cities in the world is being explored.
In general, due to a set of measures takenat the national level in 2013, Kazakhstan was among the 50 most competitive countries in the world. For the second year, the investor protection indicator of the Global Competitiveness Index has ranked the nation as 10th among 185 countries in the world. International experts have noted improvement in business conditions in the country which is reflected in the updated ranking of the 2014 World Bank Doing Business report where Kazakhstanis in 50th place.
Crucial for the whole economic policy of Kazakhstan will be the country’s accession tothe World Trade Organisation(WTO). After Kazakhstan’s accession to the organisation, trade policy will be changing. Kazakh businesses sought to show the economic solvency and ability to adapt to new market conditions.
The successful cooperation with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) should be noted. In 2013, together with the European Union, Kazakhstan became co-chair of the OECD Initiative for Central Asia of the Eurasia Competitiveness Programme. Kazakhstan received the status of a participant in the OECD Committee on Industry, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, joined OECD’s Global Forum on transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes and received the status of a guest in the seven OECD committees, including a committee on agriculture.
Work with international financial institutions continues. In the context of regional integration,the Central Asian development programme of energy and water resources of the World Bank is of interest.
One of the important partners involved in the infrastructure financing projects isthe Asian Development Bank, which recently held its annual meeting of the Governing Council in Astana.
I would be remiss if I leftout one the key projects of our country, EXPO 2017 in Astana. Since the historic victoryof Kazakhstan in its bid to host EXPO 2017, a lot of preparatory work has been done. Now, the process of preparation for the exhibitionhas moved to the active stage; just recently, landmark events occurred when the construction of the fairgrounds began and we received the approval of the registration dossier before the Executive Committee of the Bureau of International Expositions (BIE).
An official recognition of EXPO 2017 will be held June 11 at the 155th General Assembly of the BIE. We will get the BIE flag and obtain the right to formally launch full-scale efforts to attract participants to the exhibition and promote EXPO 2017 in the international arena.
EXPO 2017 is not just an exhibition where we will build pavilions and stands of different states, but a complex project which will become a powerful engine for the country’s economic growth.
The exhibition will create an infrastructure that will meet high international standards for qualityof life and make our capital an example ofthe careful attitude of our people toward nature and the environment. Special Bus Rapid Transit lines (BRT), a railway station, additional terminal at the airport and other strategic facilities in the capital of Kazakhstanand other cities of the country will be commissioned.
We expect that more than 100 countries and over 10 international organisations will participate in the exhibition. Individual participation agreements will be signed with the each of those countries.
The exhibition aims to provide a long-term socio-economic impact for the country, assist in the transition of Kazakhstanto the green economy and give a significant impetus to the development of innovationin the global energy sector. The exhibition will present the best of know-how, breakthrough and perspective projects in the field of alternative and renewable energy.
EXPO 2017 should pass at the highest level as preparations for EXPO 2017 are under the special control of President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
In conclusion, I would like to add that the work of Kazakhstan’s diplomacy in the economic sector attains a new level of meaning and organisation. Although there are still many problems and unresolved issues, the main trend is clearly visible – attraction of foreign investments and participation in the international economic organisations will create a strong capacity to promote the economic interests of the country.
The author is First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the National Commissioner for EXPO 2017 in Astana.