Kazakhstan and Spain Forge Stronger Trade Ties, Opening Door to New Opportunities

ASTANA – On May 30, Astana hosted the 10th meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission for Economic and Industrial Cooperation. Chaired by Kazakh Vice Minister of Trade and Integration Kairat Torebayev and Secretary of State for Trade of Spain Xiana Margarida Méndez Bértolo, the meeting reaffirmed the strong willingness to explore new opportunities for cooperation beyond the traditional hydrocarbons sector. 

Xiana Méndez and Kairat Torebayev shake hands during their meeting.

With both nations displaying a steadfast commitment to cooperation, the commission discussed a multitude of sectors ripe for cooperation, as trade turnover between Kazakhstan and Spain reached a record $2.6 billion in 2022, up by 41.7% from $1.8 billion in 2021 and $892 million in 2012. The majority of Kazakh exports, however, are hydrocarbons. 

According to the data from the National Bank of Kazakhstan, Spain has invested $279.2 million in the country since 2005. More than 60 enterprises with Spanish capital are registered in Kazakhstan, including giants like Airbus Defense & Space, Maxam, Talgo, Indra and Inditex.

Torebayev said Kazakhstan is ready to enhance foreign trade by creating conditions for direct contact between the economic entities, ensuring more active participation in joint investment projects, and expanding the range of goods. 

The next meeting of the commission will take place in Madrid. Photo credit: Kazakh Ministry of Trade and Integration

“According to our calculations, Kazakh companies can supply an additional 90 processed goods to the market of Spain. These products cover metallurgical, petrochemical, food, chemical, and machine-building industries, as well as construction products worth over $660 million. I propose to work continuously to find partners among business circles of both countries and establish supplies,” said the Kazakh vice minister during the commission’s meeting. 

Bilateral trade between Kazakhstan and Spain is as strong as ever before, State Secretary Méndez told The Astana Times. She said the countries managed not only to reach pre-pandemic levels but exceed them. 

“We could see there were a lot of companies participating in the business council from both sides. At least 35 Spanish companies, some already present in the Kazakh market, while others coming from Spain and from other countries in the region. [There are] very internationalized Spanish companies that have a lot of technology and solutions to offer for the sectors that we think are prioritized by the Kazakh government,” commented Méndez to The Astana Times, who was in the capital for a one-day visit. 

Méndez was in Kazakhstan five years ago and she emphasized how the country has changed. Photo credit: Kazakh Ministry of Trade and Integration

She highlighted renewable energy, water and wastewater management, health and mapping of natural resources as areas where Kazakhstan and Spain can work well. 

“They have the technology and experience in renewable energy. In Spain, we have the climate conditions to develop this kind of technology, and we’ve been doing so for a long time. They are excellent partners for the sector,” she added. 

Spanish companies can offer expertise to the Kazakh municipalities on how to handle the growing population in the country that recently exceeded 19.8 million, which, consequently, leads to a bigger strain on infrastructure and public services.  

Technologies in the water sector are a “very obvious” area for partnership, according to Méndez. Spanish companies have gained a reputation for excellence in water management by developing cutting-edge technologies and systems to optimize water usage across various sectors. 

Spanish Ambassador to Kazakhstan Jorge Urbiola during the meeting. Photo credit: Kazakh Ministry of Trade and Integration

“I think in this case, for example, water management, as well as wastewater management, traffic, and, of course, electricity are examples of public services that they can improve through the transfer of technology and through new digital solutions. That’s something that the Spanish companies can provide to these municipalities and the government,” said Méndez. 

At the seventh meeting of the Kazakh-Spanish business council the same day, Kanat Sharlapayev, chairman of the Baiterek national holding company, who co-chairs the council with the President of Maxam Jose Manuel Vargas, said Spanish companies are important technological partners primarily for the supply of equipment. 

“We are negotiating with Spanish companies to become technological partners of business in Kazakhstan. This will take place in the main three industries. Within the council, we will hold several negotiations, including on water treatment facilities, the development of our cooperation in agriculture and water management, as well as in mechanical engineering,” said Sharlapayev. 

Kanat Sharlapayev and Xiana Méndez at the Business Council meeting. Photo credit: baiterek.gov.kz

Méndez visited Kazakhstan five years ago and she noted the transformations in the country. 

“I can see the country changing and transforming. So it’s really nice to be here again, to see the change for the better. Though my first impression was excellent, my impression today is even better. I think that the Spanish companies are seeing what I’m seeing in this country – a lot of opportunities, excellent local partners, and public administration that is really willing to be open to investment, to trade and to take advantage of this window of opportunity that is opening in very complex times, but where collaboration between the European Union and Central Asia is key,” said Méndez.  

The launch of direct flights is still being discussed by the authorities. Méndez said Spanish companies are interested in launching direct air travel with Kazakhstan, considering the country’s open skies regime, which has been in place since 2017 and which has recently been extended to 2027.

Get The Astana Times stories sent directly to you! Sign up via the website or subscribe to our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, YouTube and Tiktok!