Slovak Prime Minister visits Kazakhstan, attends business forum

ASTANA – Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini discussed bilateral trade and economic cooperation Nov. 15 in Astana during Pellegrini’s first official visit to Kazakhstan.

Photo credit: Akorda Press.

“I believe that your visit will give a new impetus to the development of mutual relations,” said Nazarbayev.

Pellegrini praised Kazakhstan’s growing international role.

“Kazakhstan has a great authority in the field of international relations. We highly appreciate the stabilising role of Kazakhstan in solving many international issues,” he said.

Pellegrini said the countries should expand bilateral trade and economic relations and increase cooperation in agriculture and transit and logistics, including within the Belt and Road initiative.

Pellegrini also discussed with Kazakh Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev expanding cooperation in trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian affairs, energy, agriculture, engineering, transit, joint investment projects and tourism.

Slovakia plans to open two centres for simplified obtaining of Schengen visas for Kazakh citizens in Kazakhstan.

Sagintayev noted growing bilateral trade and said Kazakhstan is interested in Slovak experience in the automotive industry, alternative and renewable energy sources and green economy, energy infrastructure and nuclear energy.

Bilateral trade in 2017 grew 40 percent over 2016 to $53 million. In January-August 2018, trade volumes reached $33.5 million and the inflow of Slovak direct investment from 2005 to the second quarter of 2018 totalled $20.6 million.

Pellegrini noted Kazakhstan was key partner for Slovakia in Central Asia and that Slovak companies are involved in large energy and infrastructure projects in Kazakhstan.

The Slovak Prime Minister also thanked Kazakhstan for protecting investors and exempting them from double taxation.

Sixty-two legal entities, branches and representative offices with Slovak participation are registered in Kazakhstan.

Slovakia will chair the Organisation for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Europe in 2019 and Pellegrini said his country is interested in Kazakhstan’s experience as 2010 chair, during which Kazakhstan organised the first OIC Summit in 11 years.

Pellegrini also led a delegation of 70 Slovak business and government representatives to the Nov. 15 Kazakh-Slovak Business Forum in Astana. The forum gathered approximately 120 business people from both countries.

Sagintayev told the gathering Slovakia is a key partner for Kazakhstan in Central Europe and said the countries have in common an agro-industrial economic orientation of the economies, a developed human potential and a favourable geographical location.

Sagintayev outlined priority areas to increase cooperation, including manufacturing and non-primary exports. Kazakhstan also seeks to expand elements of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, including 3D printing, online trade, mobile banking, digital services, automation, robotisation, artificial intelligence and the exchange of big data.

Sagintayev also said Kazakhstan seeks to use new technologies and processing techniques to expand agricultural productivity and increase exports.

He also noted that Kazakhstan is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union with a population of more than 180 million people with no customs borders, and other major international economic cooperation organisations

He noted that tax burdens have been lessened and that procedures for public-public partnerships have been simplified. He also said Kazakhstan has improved migration and labour laws and simplified procedures for these activities. He also noted Kazakhstan has set up structures, such as the Foreign Investors Council under the President and the Council for the Improvement of the Investment Climate to protect foreign investors. These procedures, Sagintayev told the gathering, contributed to Kazakhstan jumping to 28th on the 2019 World Bank Doing Business ranking.

Sagintayev invited the Slovak businesses to participate in joint projects, including in Kazakhstan’s large-scale privatisation of the major national companies.

Pellegrini said that Slovak entrepreneurs are interested in investing in Kazakhstan and that the Slovak government wants to expand economic relations through joint investments and projects.

“There are industries in the energy sector in which we see the greatest potential, including the renewable sources, mechanical engineering, mining equipment, oil and gas, water purification technology, as well as food production and many others. Therefore, the firms that are present here represent precisely these areas,” said Pellegrini,

Diplomatic relations between Kazakhstan and Slovakia were established Jan. 1, 1993.