Kazakhstan's foreign-trade priorities have markedly evolved in response to global market demands and geopolitical shifts. Historically, the country has relied on its neighbors, particularly Russia, for trade and economic security. However, in recent years, it has been strategically diversifying its trade partners to leverage its geographical position and resource wealth more effectively in the global market. This wealth includes significant reserves of oil, natural gas and minerals. In 2023, Kazakhstan's trade turnover broke a historical record and reached $139.8 billion. Top exports include crude petroleum, gold, refined copper, ferro-alloys, and copper ore. The strategy of diversification enhances Kazakhstan’s sovereignty and economic stability, providing support for President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev's multifaceted reform programs. These reforms include, among other things, increasing workers' salaries, reducing corruption, abolishing capital punishment, and decentralizing the government. In his state-of-the-nation address, Tokayev announced a transition to a new economic model involving further de-monopolization and diversification of the economy. The recent realignment of Kazakhstan's trade relationships is marked by China's ascendancy over Russia as the country's principal trading partner. This development in turn reflects regional trade dynamics and underscores broader geopolitical and economic trends within Central Asia. In 2023, yearly trade turnover between Kazakhstan and China surged 30% to $31.5 billion. This growth is emblematic of deepening economic ties and expanding trade routes across Eurasia, Asia, Africa, and Europe. China's investment in Kazakhstan, especially in infrastructure and energy sectors, is a critical factor in this ascendancy. China has invested $36.7 billion in Kazakhstan’s economy in the last 17 years, with two-thirds of this (or $25.2 billion) invested in the power sector. Approximately half of the investments are in oil and gas, while the rest are mainly in mining and ore processing, machine manufacturing, energy and food production. The partnership between Kazakhstan and China offers Kazakhstan significant economic growth opportunities, but necessitates careful navigation of its relationships with both China and Russia. President Tokayev is keenly attentive to balancing economic benefits with the need to maintain sovereignty and avoid over-dependence on a single partner. Russia's yearly trade turnover with Kazakhstan fell 3.7 percent to $26 billion in 2023. This decrease reflects the broader economic challenges and the volatility that Russia faces, impacting its capacity to engage in foreign trade at previous levels and pushing Kazakhstan to seek reliable and economically beneficial partnerships. This shift in trade dynamics illustrates the ongoing realignment in the geopolitical landscape of Eurasia. China's emergence challenges Russia's historical influence in Central Asia. Kazakhstan's enhanced cooperation with China reflects a strategic alignment and a hedging strategy against over-reliance on any single country. China's higher profile is not the only significant characteristic of Kazakhstan's evolving trade policy. Kazakhstan is actively expanding its trade relationships beyond its traditional partners to include countries in Europe and the Middle East. Italy has become Kazakhstan's third-largest trading partner, with a turnover of $16.1 billion in 2023, underscoring Kazakhstan's efforts to diversify its economic connections and enhance its trade portfolio with European nations. This growth highlights the potential for increased trade in goods...
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Two hydrometric stations have been opened along the cross-border Great Fergana Canal and North Fergana Canal, according to a report by news portal Gazeta.uz. Construction of the stations was facilitated by the Swiss government’s Blue Peace Central Asia initiative. The project was started in 2017 in response to the need for a cross-border strategy for water management in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The hydrometric stations were opened as part of the sixth meeting of the Uzbekistan-Tajikistan working group on the coordinated use of the transnational rivers’ water resources in Central Asia. The two countries signed a protocol on the automated computations and real-time transfer of cost data to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan from the two stations. The Gazeta.uz report claims that Switzerland has been assisting water reform initiatives in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan for nearly 20 years, employing an integrated approach to national water resources management. Blue Peace Central Asia supports the creation of guidelines for regional cooperation aimed at ensuring water security for the entire population of Central Asia. Recently, the data source Meteojurnal released statistics regarding the use of Amudarya water by Central Asian nations in 2023, based on information from the scientific information center of the Central Asian interstate water management coordination commission (Afghanistan was not taken into account). The largest user of river water was Turkmenistan, which diverted 42% of river water (20 cubic kilometers) to its own country. In second place was Uzbekistan, which used 38.4% of the river’s water (about 18.3 cubic kilometers). The next largest user, Tajikistan, accounted for 19.8% of water (more than 9.4 cubic kilometers).
On February 23 the U.S. government published a new package of sanctions, which this time included not only Russian enterprises, but also companies from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. The Ministry of Trade and Integration (MTI) of Kazakhstan said that the U.S. sanctions lists and a number of European countries included Elem Group LLP and Da Group 22 LLP. Elem Group LLP is registered as a company engaged in wholesale trade in electronic and telecommunications equipment and components. The LLP's goods, such as microchips, analog-to-digital converters, and the like are known to be re-exported. Da Group 22 was founded in 2022 and is a small business. Officially, the organization is engaged in wholesale trade of electronic and telecommunication equipment and its related componentry, and tax deductions for the year on average exceed 173 million tenge (~$385,000). The MTI noted that the companies' entry into the restricted lists was known in advance. "Kazakh companies have previously [been in] dialogue with external partners and expressed their interest in continuing cooperation," said the MTI's press service. It's also been clear that neither Elem Group LLP nor Da Group 22 LLP carried out any import and/or export trade since 2023. Moreover, Elem Group LLP is currently in the process of liquidation. Representatives of the MTI specified that Kazakhstani companies do not apply any sanctions towards Russia, but also try to avoid using their resources to circumvent Western sanctions. A Kyrgyz privately held company, UKON, also found itself on the new U.S. sanctions list. According to the Ministry of Justice of Kyrgyzstan, UKON was registered in August 2022, and its sole founder and manager is Mehti Gafar-Zade (aka Mehti Fikret). This is not the first company from Kyrgyzstan to be blacklisted by the U.S. for helping Russia circumvent sanctions. Last year, the companies Weitmann Handeln Allianz LLC, Tro.Ya, RM Design and Development, GTME Technologies, Progress Leader and Cargoline also fell under sanctions. The State Committee of National Security of Kyrgyzstan stated that neither the state nor any state structures or companies intentionally contribute to the violation of compliance regimes stemming from sanctions imposed on Russia. The special service also noted that private companies on the sanctions lists may not have known who the end users of their products were -- and thus may have been unknowingly involved in the supply of sanctioned goods to Russia. Among others, a company from Uzbekistan, Mvizion, has fallen under the restrictions. In November 2023 it had already fallen under US sanctions, and in December the UK also blacklisted it. Mvizion characterizes its activity as wholesale of electronic and telecommunication equipment and spare parts. It was registered in June 2022 in the name of Igor Ivlev. Last summer, a number of European countries had already imposed sanctions on Uzbek companies Alfa Beta Creative and GFK Logistic Asia. Two months before that, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed restrictions against them for purchasing goods for the Russian defense industry in circumvention of sanctions. The new U.S. sanctions list, which was published on February...
Imports of American cars to Kyrgyzstan reached record levels in January 2024, thanks in part to parallel imports from Georgia. Kyrgyzstan has become the leading recipient of Georgian exports for the first time, according to Georgia's National Statistics Service. Almost 17,000 cars worth $618m were imported to Kyrgyzstan. Georgia is a trading hub of sort for cars from the U.S. going to the countries of Central Asia and the Middle East, due to its geographical location, low tax rates and low cost of repair services. As a result, re-exports of cars take up nearly a fifth of Georgia's total exports. The majority of Kyrgyz used-car imports made in the U.S. are either brought directly from America or through Georgia. Since August 1, 2023, the Georgian authorities have imposed restrictions on the export and re-export of American cars to Russia. But, as noted by car exporters, now these cars will be imported to Russia through Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. This ban has had little effect on used-car prices.
Doctors in Bishkek yesterday conducted two successful surgeries on premature babies, performing laser coagulation of the retina on infants with retinopathy. According to the National Center for Maternal and Child Health of Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyz doctors were assisted in these operations by the chief retinologist of Almaty. The Kyrgyz Health Ministry describes retinopathy as an eye anomaly that is detected in children born prematurely. In 2023 in Kyrgyzstan there were 1,280 cases of premature babies born with retinopathy. Most of these babies, including those who could not get treatment abroad, went blind. According to reports, Kyrgyz doctors have mastered a new type of eye surgery thanks to colleagues from Kazakhstan, where Kyrgyz specialists were previously trained. "Earlier, with the active support of the National Red Crescent Society, the Swiss Red Cross and the L'Occitane Foundation, two doctors from the ophthalmology department of the National Center for Maternal Health successfully completed training on screening retinopathy in premature babies in Almaty," the Center said. The Kyrgyz Ministry of Health commented: "Rare eye surgeries have become possible thanks to the equipment that Kyrgyz doctors last year bought from the United States; a specialized laser for iridotomy. This [device] has become an invaluable tool in the fight against retinopathy in children." The National Center for Maternal and Child Health also said that such operations will soon begin to take place not only in Bishkek, but also in the country's regions. Doctors from other Kyrgyz cities have already been trained by Kazakhstani specialists.
When the so-called Islamic State established a self-declared 'caliphate' in 2014, thousands of nationals of Central Asian countries, including Kazakhstan, travelled to Iraq and Syria to join IS ranks. Many moved with their families and subsequently, many children were born in IS controlled conflict zones between 2014-2019. Kazakhstan has so far evacuated 526 of these children and with aid from the European Union (EU) funded programme "EU-UN Support to the States in Central Asia for their Citizens Returned from Conflict Zones, Primarily Syria, and Iraq," offered comprehensive support for their adaptation to life back home. The programme aims to assist returnee women, children, and families by encouraging their reintegration into local communities and ensuring they receive protection, access to social services, and education. During the first phase, Kazakhstan in collaboration with UNICEF, established a National Resource Center to train and equip specialists working with returned children and provide psychosocial services and professional guidance to returnees. “Our common goal is to ensure that all returnee children continue to receive the necessary support to recover from their experiences as well as the opportunity to learn, develop, and adapt to Kazakhstani culture and tradition,” said Laetitia Bazzi-Vale, acting UNICEF Representative in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan’s First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kairat Umarov noted that whilst significant progress has been made in the gradual reintegration of returnees into society, “our children still need psychological and social support." The Delegation of the European Union to Kazakhstan reported that on February 23rd, representatives of the EU, UNICEF, and the Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs met in Astana to discuss the implementation of the second phase of reintegrating further returnee children and their families. Initiatives discussed included a program of activities designed to assist local executive bodies and schools working in this sensitive field. Kestutis Jankauskas, the EU Ambassador to Kazakhstan, stated: “We have been supporting an important programme to reintegrate returnee children in Kazakhstan for several years now. The cooperation of UNICEF, the European Union, and the Kazakhstani authorities aims to create conditions for the children’s successful social adaptation, and we are pleased to see positive results.”