Kyrgyzstan and UK building stronger trade and investment ties

BISHKEK (TCA) — On March 1, the second UK Trade Mission is finishing its visit to Kyrgyzstan, having conducted a series of business meetings in the country. On February 28, there were B2G meetings in the Government Office, the Ministry of Culture, Information and Tourism, the Ministry of Education and Science, the State Committee for Industry, Energy and Subsoil Use, and other state agencies.

On February 27, B2B meetings took place.

Kyrgyzstan becomes a good partner

“The reforms that are carried out in Kyrgyzstan allow us to open our country to investors from the new side. We are becoming a good partner,” Kyrgyzstan’s Economy Minister Artem Novikov said at the presentation of the UK Trade Mission on February 27.

“Our business people can see which contracts could be concluded to improve trade relations with the UK,” the minister said and told the guests about the country’s investment potential.

Kyrgyzstan has great potential for economic growth. For the past six years, the country has managed to double its GDP in nominal terms, Novikov said. In 2017, the total trade increased by 12.5%, with exports growing faster than imports.

Trade with the UK has increased fivefold in 2017 compared to 2016, with a significant share of gold and precious metals. The minister expressed the hope that trade between the two countries will also develop in other sectors.

The arrival of the UK Trade Mission is of great importance for Kyrgyzstan. In the future, such meetings should be held more than once a year but quarterly or once in six months, and they should be more extended to cover all areas, the minister said.

Kyrgyzstan is implementing the Taza Koom (Clean Society) digital transformation program which will reduce corruption and provide business opportunities for development in electronic commerce and other industries.

“We have introduced stabilization regimes for investors and adopted a law that opens up opportunities for tax benefits for industrial enterprises. There is a law on public-private partnership and fiscal mechanisms for electronic procedures are being introduced. According to international ratings, our country ranks first in protecting investors among the CIS countries,” Novikov added.

The minister drew attention to the tourist potential of Kyrgyzstan. “Forbes magazine included Kyrgyzstan in the top ten list of recommended Best Budget Travel Destinations,” he said. Previously, Business Insider included the country in the top 12 emerging travel destinations. Kyrgyzstan was also among the top ten countries tipped for a tourism boom by WTTC.

The minister urged British companies to invest in the Kyrgyz processing industry, energy sector, tourism, and light industry.

Opportunities for cooperation

According to UK Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Robin Ord-Smith, the trade between the two countries amounted to $5.1 million for 10 months of 2017, and direct investments for 9 months were $27.6 million.

The UK wants to achieve an increase in trade between the two countries. There are many opportunities for cooperation between our states in education, the Taza Koom program, providing legal and business services, the Ambassador said.

Last year a UK Trade Mission of ten companies visited Kyrgyzstan for the first time in the past ten years.

Such trade missions are very useful for Kyrgyzstan, believes Executive Director of the International Business Council (IBC) based in Bishkek, Askar Sydykov, who participated in the presentation of the UK companies.

“Given the current state of our economy, we understand that it is difficult for us to expect the arrival of an investor who would immediately create enterprises here and invest in them. This is especially true for Western investors who are much more cautious,” Sydykov said at the presentation.

Therefore, it is necessary to build ties with entrepreneurs, starting with small steps. “For example, if our entrepreneurs start selling nuts abroad and buy equipment there, then there will be trust among both sides, which is the important thing in business,” Sydykov explained.

Negotiations at the government level are essential but it is more important to start cooperation with a particular business. “It would be good if more trade missions come to us more often, and Kyrgyzstan would send its delegations to other countries. As a result of mutual trade, we will be able to attract serious investments into the country over time, including from Western countries,” the head of the business association concluded.

Prestigious delegation

The British delegation includes seven UK companies of various activities which bring international best practice and expertise in the provision of E-Government, identity data management solutions, supply chain, fund management, supply of mineral processing solutions, education, consultancy and policy development, delivery of engineering solutions, high end solutions in media and IT, and legal services.

For example, British Expertise International is engaged in attracting investment in the Central Asian countries, preparing reports for UK business people on the investment opportunities of the countries of the region.

De La Rue is a well-known provider of digital solutions and services in identification and security. Fulfilling the order of the National Bank of the Kyrgyz Republic, the company produced banknotes of 200, 500 and 1000 soms, as well as foreign passport forms for Kyrgyzstan.

The Trade Mission also included representatives of the University College London (UCL), one of the leading UK universities, said IBC’s Askar Sydykov, who recently completed a master’s program at Cambridge University.

“The prestigious consulting firms that analyze the financial and marketing policies of the states come to us. This is a good sign that they could present our country and promote its image abroad. We need to pay tribute to the UK Embassy which is doing a great job organizing trade missions to us,” Sydykov said.

“The visit of the UK Trade Mission will help build stronger trade and investment ties between our two countries to support economic development and contribute to the National Strategy for Sustainable Development of the Kyrgyz Republic, the Forty Steps to New Era Program and Taza Koom programs,” Ambassador Robin Ord-Smith concluded.

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