ASTANA – In an exclusive interview with The Astana Times following his June 5-6 visit to Kazakhstan, Dominican Republic Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas said he saw many opportunities for cooperation, particularly in human resources, education and business.
“You have great universities here. But mainly our cooperation focuses on trade and commerce. We will also look for ways to facilitate business processes between the businesspeople from Kazakhstan and the Dominican Republic,” he said.
Though bilateral trade numbers are lower than with some other trading partners, trade numbers increased significantly in the last few years. According to the statistics provided by Kazakh Customs, trade last year reached a record $890,300, which is up from $659,100 in 2014. The main goods of trade were medical equipment, medicine and cigars from the Dominican Republic and chemicals from Kazakhstan.
During the visit, Vargas met with Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov and the two signed a political declaration. It also touched upon cooperation regarding EXPO 2017 and in international organisations. And they have agreed to facilitate the visa regime further and to explore possibilities for improving air links.
“Presently Kazakh nationals can enter the Dominican Republic without a visa by purchasing a $10 card upon arrival,” Vargas told The Astana Times. “After formalising the new visa regime agreement, Dominicans will also be able to travel to Kazakhstan, without a visa. Also, the agreement will relieve Kazakhs from buying the 10-dollar card upon arrival. This will be signed in the next couple of weeks.”
With the air links, the minister said he wished to establish “connection” hubs for Dominicans and Kazakhs.
“Most Kazakh nationals use the gateway of Moscow or Saint Petersburg or chartered flights when traveling to the Dominican Republic. Right now, we have 14 flights a week from Russia to the Dominican Republic. We are looking forward to increasing the flights from Moscow to our country, however, we also suggested to formalise the air agreements between Kazakhstan and the Dominican Republic, so that the Kazakh airlines would use a third country, like Spain for instance, to reach the Dominican Republic and also use the country as a connecting hub to other countries in the region. We would like to formalise this air service agreement between Kazakhstan and the Dominican Republic to facilitate the people-to-people contact.”
The Dominican delegation also focused on other areas of cooperation, in particular natural resources and energy, the minister said.
“We signed an agreement of cooperation in the energy field,” Vargas said referring to a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Energy. “As a matter of fact, we came to Kazakhstan because of the expo, our participation in the exhibition was what got our interest in coming to Kazakhstan. And it shows the importance Kazakhstan places [on this issue], given the amount of energy resources that you already have but making sure it is respectful to the environment and taken over to the 50-50 programme, where renewable energy is used. I am very impressed by how Kazakhstan is looking forward to the future and we want to cooperate and learn from each other’s good practice.”
The minister said his personal impressions of the country also exceeded his expectations.
“Astana is not only a beautiful but a well-developed city, a city looking towards the future. My impression was highlighted by the hospitality of the Kazakh people and the host, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, and everybody we have met during our visit, they all have impressed us even more.”