TASHKENT, Uzbekistan - Ministers and senior government officials from 11 countries in Central and West Asia gathered in the Uzbek capital Tashkent on Thursday for the 18th Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Ministerial Conference. The high-level strategy and policy body serves as a regional platform to enhance economic cooperation among member countries and discuss important issues of regional significance.
The 11 members of CAREC are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, tChina, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
Adviser to the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Ravshan Gulyamov opened the conference and reaffirmed Uzbekistan's support to strengthen regional cooperation. Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan and ADB Governor Elyor Ganiev delivered the keynote address. Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Takehiko Nakao delivered the special address. The meeting was chaired by Uzbekistan's Minister of Investments and Foreign Trade Sardor Umurzakov and ADB Vice-President Shixin Chen.
In his remarks, Mr. Nakao emphasized ADB's support for CAREC member countries and its ongoing commitment to regional cooperation and integration. "Since 2001, the CAREC Program has financed 200 projects worth $37 billion in transport, energy, and trade.
The theme of this year's conference, "A New CAREC - Expanding Horizons of Regional Cooperation," focused on emerging opportunities for cooperation following the opening-up of the region. The CAREC ministers said in a joint statement: "We are committed to implementing the expanded agenda of CAREC 2030 strategy in the areas of connectivity and trade, tourism, agriculture and water, and human development." The ministers unanimously endorsed the CAREC Transport Strategy 2030 and CAREC Energy Strategy 2030. The strategies support enhancing infrastructure and economic connectivity with a greater focus on more sustainable and greener solutions in the region.
In his remarks, the ADB chief noted the generally positive regional economic outlook and the strong growth in the CAREC region's trade performance in 2018. He said that trade had moderated in the first half of 2019 due to uncertainties surrounding Brexit, trade tensions, and slowing growth prospects in China. But he remained optimistic about the region's medium-term trade prospects. "Uzbekistan's efforts to accede to the World Trade Organization, liberalization of visa regimes in various countries, improvements in connectivity, and reduction in non-tariff barriers to trade should all promote trade going forward," he said.
The CAREC ministers commended the ongoing progress made in advancing the five operational clusters of the CAREC 2030 strategy, including economic and financial stability; trade, tourism, and economic corridors; infrastructure and connectivity; agriculture and water; and human development.
Ministers welcomed the high-level CAREC forum on "Balancing Infrastructure Investments with Debt Sustainability" held in Kazakhstan in May, and the CAREC Capital Markets Regulators' Forum held in Pakistan in August, saying these events strengthened economic cooperation in the region and helped to promote financial stability.
Ministers said they were pleased with progress made in trade and tourism. They welcomed the establishment of a CAREC working group to provide a common standard for food safety and animal and plant health measures (sanitary and phytosanitary measures) to promote exports of products of agricultural and animal origin. They also commended initiatives to support high-level policy and private sector dialogue on ways to unlock the CAREC region's tourism potential and welcomed ADB's technical assistance to develop a CAREC Tourism Strategy 2030 and a regional tourism investment framework 20212025.
In infrastructure and connectivity, ministers welcomed the convening of the first CAREC Energy Ministers Dialogue held in Uzbekistan in September as an important opportunity to accelerate cross-border cooperation on energy issues.
Ministers also welcomed the development of the first CAREC gender strategy to support the talents, human capital, and economic potential of women in the region. The strategy is expected to be submitted to ministers for their endorsement at next year's Ministerial Conference.
Pictured: Front row (left to right): Tajikistan Minister of Economic Development and Trade Nematullo Hikmattullozoda; Afghanistan Acting Minister of Finance and Chief Instructure Adviser of the President Mohammad Humayon Qayoumi; Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan and ADB Governor Elyor Ganiev; Adviser to the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Ravshan Gulyamov; ADB President Takehiko Nakao; Uzbekistan Minister of Investments and Foreign Trade Sardor Umurzakov; Kazakhstan Minister of National Economy Ruslan Dalenov; Minister of the Economic Affairs Division of Pakistan Muhammad Hammad Azhar; and the Kyrgyz Republic's Minister of Culture, Information, and Tourism Azamat Zhamankulov.
Back row (left to right): ADB Director General for East Asia Amy Leung; State Secretary of Mongolia's Ministry of Finance Sanjaa Narantsogt; Georgia Deputy Minister for the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development Akaki Saghirashvili; Azerbaijan Deputy Minister for the Ministry of Economy Sahib Mammadov; Uzbekistan Deputy Minister for the Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade Shukrat Vafaev; ADB Vice-President Shixin Chen; Vice Minister of China's Ministry of Finance Hongcai Xu; Deputy Minister of Turkmenistan's Ministry of Energy Batyr Hudayberdyyev; and ADB Director General for Central and West Asia Werner Liepach.