In today’s highly competitive global environment, economic and trade ties are an increasingly important part of international diplomacy. Nowadays, official government visits focus not only on international political issues, but also on developing closer economic cooperation, encouraging investment and promoting exports. Embassies deal with diplomatic and consular issues and also increasingly engage with foreign investors, businesses, and trade organisations.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev was, therefore, right to task the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to attract high quality foreign direct investment to Kazakhstan. Under the ministry’s expanded remit, it will be responsible not just for attracting FDI but also for promoting the export of the country’s products around the world.
These changes make sense. As President Nazarbayev noted, the foreign ministry’s staff speak numerous languages and know the countries of their missions’ presence well. Perhaps, most importantly, the ministry has the ability to conduct economic diplomacy through embassies and foreign missions across the globe.
The newly appointed Foreign Minister Beibut Atamkulov is the right person to lead this important change. He has dedicated most of his career to the economic success of Kazakhstan. His decades of professional experience, working closely with foreign businesses, will give the MFA the economic vision and leadership it needs to meet this important challenge.
Each year the foreign ministry and its global diplomats help to organise more than 300 trade, economic and investment events and approximately 600 foreign delegation visits to Kazakhstan and vice versa. Such engagements have already facilitated an increase in foreign direct investment and the President’s most recent changes will provide even greater impetus.
Building upon this, major achievements were made in 2018 in the sphere of economic diplomacy. This included implementing agreements reached by President Nazarbayev during foreign visits and promoting the transit and transport potential of Kazakhstan through the Nurly Zhol programme, which enables major investment in Kazakhstan’s infrastructure, as well as in conjunction with China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
These will remain important priorities for 2019, in addition to supporting Kazakhstan’s domestic companies and developing the tourism industry (the foreign ministry is directly involved in helping implement the state programme for tourism). Enabling foreign direct investment, promoting exports, as well as contributing to the development of the Eurasian Economic Union, are also amongst other important priorities.
When it comes to securing foreign investment, Kazakhstan has attracted more than 300 billion dollars in FDI since independence, making the country the leading investment destination in Central Asia. Over the past two years alone, foreign investors have invested over 20 billion dollars annually in Kazakhstan’s economy.
However, attracting high-quality investment is becoming even more competitive, with many countries around the world vying for the same foreign business and reliable sources of capital. For this reason, it is important for Kazakhstan to continually adapt to new global realities and stay ahead of the curve.
As a Kazakh deputy foreign minister noted during a recent interview, “As we seek to further modernise our economy in order to reach our goal of joining the top 30 most developed countries by 2050, we naturally need to strengthen our efforts to attract a diversified range of foreign investments and technologies.”
The foreign ministry will now oversee the work of the Committee for Investment, as well as the work of Kazakh Invest, the national company tasked with attracting FDI to Kazakhstan. This expanded remit will give the foreign ministry the additional capabilities and resources needed to deliver for Kazakhstan and its people.
Placing economic diplomacy under the remit of the foreign ministry, an organisation with extensive international experience, is a positive and forward-thinking decision. It will help to safeguard Kazakhstan’s economic future and have a clear impact on our country’s ability to attract foreign investment and promote the exports of a diverse range of national products.
In a highly competitive global environment, this move will ensure Kazakhstan can remain the top investment destination in Central Asia and an economic powerhouse in the wider region.