By Ksenia Bondal
Assistant US Trade Representative for South and Central Asian Affairs Mark Linscott (centre) speaks with journalists about regional trade policy December 12 in Almaty. [Vladimir Tretyakov]
ALMATY -- Trade in goods, agriculture and manufacturing between Kazakhstan and the United States is continuing on an upward trend for the benefit of both countries, say US and Kazakhstani officials.
Trade in between the two countries in 2016 reached $1.9 billion (628.9 billion KZT), according to the Office of the US Trade Representative.
US exports to Kazakhstan reached $1.1 billion (364.1 billion KZT), while Kazakhstan exported goods to the United States worth $742 million (245.6 billion KZT).
US exports of goods to Kazakhstan supported about 3,000 jobs in 2015, according to the latest data available from the US Department of Commerce.
The United States is the "number one" investor in Kazakhstan's energy, tourism, healthcare and resource extraction industries, according to Assistant US Trade Representative for South and Central Asian Affairs Mark Linscott.
"This year, trade will be greater than last year's figures -- we anticipate that it will reach $1.66 billion [549.5 billion KZT]," Linscott told Caravanserai while attending the annual Council Meeting of the US-Central Asia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in Almaty December 11-13.
Kazakhstan's agricultural and manufacturing sectors harbour great prospects, he said, adding that much will depend on the conditions Kazakhstan creates for entrepreneurs.
"Kazakhstan is going through many reforms," he said. "Improvements in the protection of intellectual property, the reduction of administrative barriers -- which determine the level of corruption -- will provide more opportunities to cultivate co-operation with the United States."
The government of Kazakhstan has clearly outlined that the United States is one of the "top 11" countries it wants to attract for investment.
"Taking into account economic opportunities, 36 potential countries were identified, of which 11 are the top priority [including the United States]," Larisa Dzhumagaliyeva, deputy chairwoman of the Ministry of Investments and Development's investment committee, said in Astana December 8.
"Along with the Foreign Ministry, we are developing an individual approach and specific action plan to work with each of these high-priority countries," she said.
The Ministry of Investments and Development is actively working on attracting foreign investors, including multinational corporations, to invest in the economy of Kazakhstan, she said.
The US government is facilitating the development of trade ties with Central Asia on the basis of the US-Central Asia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), signed by the US and Central Asian states in 2004.
After that, the participants agreed to hold a council meeting linked to TIFA annually to hold regular dialogue aimed at attracting American investment into the region. Afghanistan has observer status on the council.
The Council Meeting takes place annually. In April 2016, it occurred in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
"The United States views TIFA as the main platform for interaction with the Central Asian countries on issues of trade and investment," Linscott said.
The main objectives for TIFA, according to Linscott, are to shape trade and investment policy in Central Asia, to engage as many private corporations as possible and to develop an action plan to resolve practical issues in those areas.
Examples include accelerating the passage of goods through customs, appraising the value of goods, eliminating trade barriers in the region and protecting intellectual property, he said.
"Respect for proprietary information is one key issue," he said. "Thanks to this, Kazakhstan will be able to grow its trade relations with the United States."
Presidents of Central Asian countries overall called 2017 a year of changes and said they foresee further innovations in 2018.
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