Investments, Trans-Caspian Route: Experts Weigh In on President Tokayev’s US Visit

ASTANA — President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, has commenced a high-profile visit to New York City starting on Sept. 17, aiming to bolster economic ties with American businesses. Experts view this visit as a significant opportunity for Kazakhstan to attract foreign investments and strengthen its international standing.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, together with President of Hungary Katalin Novak, co-chaired the first session of the Leaders’ Dialogue on “Scaling Up Actions on Key Transitions to Accelerate SDG Progress.”

During his visit, Tokayev is expected to speak at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) General Debate and participate in the C5+1 meeting alongside other Central Asian leaders and U.S. President Joe Biden.

Rich in natural resources, Kazakhstan has been actively seeking foreign investment to spur economic growth. With experts highlighting the potential for increased economic collaboration, all eyes are on the Kazakh leader’s engagements in New York.

Iskander Akylbayev, a chief expert at the Kazakhstan Institute of Strategic Studies (KazISS), said discussions in the U.S. align with Kazakhstan’s goal to diversify its economy. The development of the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR) plays a crucial role in this agenda.

The TITR is an ambitious project that involves multiple countries and stakeholders. Stretching from China through Kazakhstan, the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and extending to Europe, the route could be a game-changer for Kazakhstan if successfully developed.

“For Kazakhstan, it is strategically important to diversify its economy, considering recent events. The Trans-Caspian route is crucial for us because we are a transit country. Consequently, we can develop our own infrastructure along this route. Therefore, it is necessary to understand the economic aspect and establish fruitful relations with our colleagues from Azerbaijan, Georgia, and European countries,” Akylbayev said. 

Investments are key to the visit’s agenda, according to Ariel Cohen, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and managing director of the Energy, Growth and Security Program at the International Tax and Investment Center. The U.S. is one of the largest foreign investors in Kazakhstan’s economy, having invested $62.7 billion since 1993. But there are still many untapped opportunities. 

Cohen also noted the dynamic partnership between Kazakhstan and the U.S., which has spanned over 30 years. He attributed much of this success to the diplomatic skills of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. Cohen described the Kazakh leader as an “experienced foreign policy maker, who has been conducting successful dialogues with all interested sides for many years.”

Askar Nursha, deputy director of KazISS, echoed his colleagues, emphasizing the growing competition for foreign investments globally. 

“Kazakhstan’s economy has immense potential, but it needs investments to unlock it. And there is a lot of competition in the global market for investments,” said Nursha. 

President Tokayev’s address at the UNGA General Debate and his participation in the C5+1 summit will be the highlight of his visit. 

The C5+1 format, initiated in 2015, is a dialogue between the U.S. and Central Asian countries. The upcoming meeting is historic as it marks the first time a U.S. president will meet with all the regional leaders simultaneously. Experts say this meeting has been long overdue.

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