As the novel coronavirus has spread across the globe, partnership has become crucial to defeat the pandemic. We express our solidarity with the United States in the fight against COVID-19 and we are working to emerge from this challenge stronger together.
We thank the U.S. Government for its support of Kazakhstan’s emergency response to the pandemic including USAID’s generous donation of protective equipment for the frontline workers as well as common efforts emanating from the longstanding partnership and information exchange between the Ministry of Healthcare of Kazakhstan and the Regional Hub of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The extraordinary leadership of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev over the past year has been crucial. We are very pleased to see that his reforms found President Trump’s support. As President Trump mentioned in his congratulatory letter to President Tokayev – “Your ambitious reform agenda aimed at political modernization is commendable.” Kazakhstan will remain committed to further political modernization and democratization. The Government continues to combat spread of the virus and stabilize the economic situation in our country. Our economic trajectory for medium term is focused on building a knowledge-based and modern economy.
COVID-19 could prove to be a turning point for a contact-free economy. We have encouraged companies to invest in e-commerce, telemedicine, and automation. We are building a reliable, affordable, high-speed and secure digital infrastructure in the framework of the national program ‘Digital Kazakhstan’. We would like to work with U.S. partners in global IT and telecom to invest in these projects with cutting-edge technologies. This would lead to a better connectivity across Central Asian region.
We also look forward to continuing our work with the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation. Initiatives like ‘Economic Prosperity Network’ and ‘Blue Dot Network’ could be an opportunity to work under the same set of standards from energy, trade and commerce to research, digital business and education. It also imperative that Kazakhstan remain in the General System of Preferences, allowing for duty free trade between our countries. We are also hopeful about establishing permanent normal trade relations by removing the Jackson-Vanik amendment of 1974 to expand our economic cooperation.
Hundreds of the U.S. companies are already doing business in our country. These include Chevron, ExxonMobil, General Electric and Pfizer with more companies looking to expand here, including Tesla and Tyson’s Food. And for good reason. Kazakhstan recently moved from 28th to 25th in the 2020 World Bank Doing Business report.
We believe that connectivity within Broader Central Asia, once Afghanistan reaches stability and sustainable growth, would enhance trade with South Asia – and beyond. In this regard, the establishment of a regional Multimodal Passenger and Cargo Center / Network together with American businesses will ensure a multiplier economic effect, creating new jobs and attracting foreign investments and new technologies. These and other questions were discussed during the C5+1 virtual meeting with Secretary Pompeo last month.
As we are committed to safety and security in Central Asia during the pandemic, Kazakhstan provided humanitarian assistance to its neighboring countries – Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. We are also supporting all efforts to reach lasting political settlement and reduction of violence in Afghanistan. Peace and stability could be reached through trade, connectivity and education ties between Central Asia and Afghanistan.
As we embrace new economic opportunities, the U.S. initiative ‘Women’s Global Development and Prosperity’ reminds us that long-term economic resilience is only possible with full participation and empowerment of women. This creates an opportunity for effective networking female entrepreneurs in our region, a key priority for President Tokayev.
President Tokayev has said, “Without political reforms there will be no progress in economic reforms.” Our motto is development, stability and reforms as nothing can be achieved in chaos.
We have expanded rights to form political parties, decriminalize defamation, promote religious freedom and peacefully assemble which is now a right, not a privilege. These are the most profound political reforms in the country’s history. They are irreversible and evolutionary nature. We stand ready to work with our American partners to further this democratic agenda.
In sum, our strength in the face of the unexpected comes from the solid foundation we have in place. The pandemic is temporary and it will be eventually defeated. In crisis comes opportunity. Together with our partners in the U.S. and regionally, we are poised to establish a stronger, more secure future for Kazakhstan and Central Asia. The benefits will be felt by the entire world.
Mukhtar Tleuberdi is the Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan.