Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to create international trade zone and checkpoint

ASTANA – Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev called for cooperation with Uzbekistan to create a Central Asian international trade zone and a Turkestan checkpoint during a Sept. 29 meeting on the region’s socio-economic development, reported the Akorda press service.

Photo credit: Akorda Press Office

“This will give the impetus for the development of the Turkestan region’s economy and the entire country. We now have the opportunity to increase trade with Uzbekistan by 2020 to $5 billion per annum,” he said, after which he signed decrees approving the initiatives on the region’s development plan and the establishment of a special economic zone (SEZ).

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are among Central Asia’s major trading partners. Throughout their 25 years of cooperation, the two countries have established a solid legal basis for trade, consisting of more than 60 documents and covering almost all areas of economic cooperation. Their 2016 agreement laid out trade plans for oil, electrical, engineering, pharmaceutical and agro-industrial products.

Kazakhstan’s main exports to Uzbekistan include wheat products, semi-finished products from unalloyed steel and iron, zinc concentrates and unprocessed aluminum. Exports were $1.3 billion in 2017, a 35-percent increase compared to the previous year.

Bilateral trade turnover was $2 billion in 2017, 31.2 percent higher than in 2016, and turnover further increased by 52 percent from January-June. Further concerted efforts to ensure continued growth from the current $3 billion to $5 billion by 2020 will be undertaken in the near future.

Following reports by First Deputy Prime Minister Askar Mamin and Turkestan region Akim (Governor) Zhanseit Tuymebayev, Nazarbayev emphasised the urgency of creating a SEZ in the region. The zone will foster favourable conditions for developing tourism, production and construction.

“There is a need to strengthen the financial stability of the region. The region’s economic base has decreased due to the removal of Shymkent from its composition. Today, the region itself provides only 20 percent of the budget needs. Our main task is to find new reserves for growth and sources of revenue for the region’s treasury,” he said.

The President called on businesspeople and heads of national and quasi-public sector companies to take a proactive role in the region’s development. His directions included building new tourism infrastructure and social facilities and reconstructing transportation links.

One such initiative is the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route Association, reported the Kazakhstan Temir Zholy press service. The organisation will coordinate the activities of the railway and port administrators and operators along the route through Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Romania and Ukraine. Kazakhstan is inviting Uzbekistan to take part in the association and more broadly develop the Trans-Caspian corridor.