Central Asia countries and US to foster international trade, investment

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BISHKEK (TCA) — The business forum “Kyrgyzstan the country of new opportunities” was held in Bishkek on April 6 as part of the 10th meeting of the Council of the Central Asia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). The forum gathered government officials and business people from the TIFA member countries.

The U.S.–Central Asia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) was signed in 2004 with the governments of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, and provides a strategic framework and guiding principles for dialogue on trade and investment issues between the parties. Afghanistan is an observer to the agreement.

The Central Asian region has a unique geographical position between the dynamically developing markets of Europe, East and South-East Asia, and the CA countries should take advantage of their favorable geo-strategic position.
 
To achieve sustainable economic growth Kyrgyzstan, among other Central Asian countries, has to develop trade and economic relations and to integrate into the international trading system, Economy Minister of Kyrgyzstan Arzybek Kojoshev said. According to the latest World Bank’s Doing Business 2016 report, Kyrgyzstan has improved its ranking, reaching the 67th place out of 189 countries. Kyrgyzstan has made the process of property registration easier by introducing a widely-used online procedure for obtaining non-encumbrance certificates, as well as by improving access to credit information. The country has also improved in the ranking of global competitiveness, rising by 6 positions, and ranked 102 out of 144 countries.
 
Kyrgyzstan was first assigned a sovereign credit rating late in 2015. Moody’s assigned a B2 stable sovereign credit rating to Kyrgyzstan and Standard & Poor’s assigned a B credit rating. It is not bad for a country with low GDP, and Kyrgyzstan’s rating is better than those of Belarus, Mongolia, Moldova and Jordan, Kojoshev said.

Michael J. Delaney, head of the delegation, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for South & Central Asia, Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), welcomed the forum and wished to promote jobs, prosperity, and stability for the people of Central Asia. The forum participants shared their experiences of doing business in Kyrgyzstan in such areas as energy, agriculture, tourism and construction.

TIFA Council meeting

Senior government officials from the five Central Asian countries and the United States met at the 10th anniversary meeting of the TIFA Council (C5+1) in Bishkek. They worked together to enhance cooperation and boost international trade and investment through two efforts: the U.S.–Central Asian Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council Meeting, and the C5+1 Economic and Regional Connectivity working group.

The TIFA working group meeting was organized by the Economy Ministry and Foreign Affairs Ministry of Kyrgyzstan with the financial support of the US Embassy in Kyrgyzstan. The participants confirmed that the TIFA is a high-level dialogue platform for strengthening trade and investment ties between the United States and the countries of Central Asia.

The C5+1 working group discussed projects to improve economic integration in order to make the region more attractive to business and investment including improvement of international business ratings, liberalization of the issuance of business visas, and promotion of cooperation between business circles.

Participants also discussed expansion of exports of Central Asian countries within the US General System of Preferences for developing countries.

The American side presented a Project matrix for technical assistance in the development of the vision of new trade corridors and attracting private investment, reduction of trade barriers, support in the creation of business networks in Central Asia, and in the development of cross-border environmental and historical tourism.

According to Kyrgyz Economy Minister Kojoshev, Kyrgyzstan’s trade with the TIFA countries was 25.4% of the country’s total trade in 2015, and with the Central Asian countries – 23.3%. Trade with the Central Asian countries decreased by 18.7% in 2015 compared to 2014.

Kyrgyzstan’s trade with the United States was $123.1 million in 2015, 48% less compared to 2014.

In 2015, Kazakhstan’s share in Kyrgyzstan’s total trade turnover was 18.2%, Uzbekistan’s – 2.7%, Tajikistan’s – 1.4%, Turkmenistan’s – 0.2%, and Afghanistan’s – 0.15%.

To speed up the transit of goods the meeting suggested conducting customs reforms and creating a regional group of the International Association of Laboratory Accreditation (ILAC). The participants also proposed creating of a working group to promote entrepreneurship among women in Central Asia.

The next TIFA meeting will be held in the United States.