Ministers from Azerbaijan, People’s Republic of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan expressed their strong commitment on 12 November to work together to deepen regional cooperation in energy, transportation and trade.
In a Ministerial Statement issued at the end of the Second Ministerial Conference on Central Asia Economic Cooperation in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, the Ministers "expressed strong commitment to working together to pursue a shared vision of a region where people live in harmony and prosperity, with free movement of goods, people and ideas."
"The Ministers reiterated the critical and urgent importance of regional economic cooperation as a means to realizing this vision, especially given close historic, ethnic, cultural and economic ties among the people in the region," the Statement said.
More than 100 delegates attended the Conference, which was organized by ADB and the government of Uzbekistan, in cooperation with multilateral institutions comprising the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Monetary Fund, the Islamic Development Bank, the United Nations Development Program and the World Bank.
Senior representatives from each multilateral institution and other development partners participated in the conference. Representatives of Afghanistan, India, Iran, Japan, and Russia attended as observers, according to ADB.
In their Statement, the Ministers acknowledged that many problems and challenges must be overcome as stronger cooperation develops.
To ensure the region can build on the foundation for closer ties that is now in place, they reaffirmed the importance of a consensus-based, practical, and results-oriented approach to regional cooperation.
In a keynote address to the Conference, ADB President Tadao Chino underlined the central role regional cooperation can play in helping the countries of Central Asia accelerate economic growth and reduce poverty.
"Regional cooperation is not an option, but a necessity for Central Asia," Chino said. "ADB, and the entire donor community, now looks to you for the necessary political will to take the process forward.
"This is your region, and the future of the region is in your hands. It will be your vision, your commitment, and your concerted actions that will make the region stable and prosperous," he told the Ministers.
The Ministerial Statement noted that the participating countries reached a convergence of views on broad key issues, constraints, and ways to advance the regional cooperation agenda.
"This represents a key step forward towards laying a solid foundation for future directions and further actions of cooperation in these priority areas," the Statement said.
The Statement emphasizes the key role of the transport sector in promoting economic growth and poverty reduction, and notes the countries’ support for the development of East-West and North-South transport corridors in the region.
Trade facilitation and the improvement of customs cooperation remain a priority, the Statement said. The Ministers also agreed to improve trade policies and establish conditions for trade development in accordance with World Trade Organization standards.
In the area of energy, the Ministers supported the broad objective of enlarging energy trade, developing regional and national best solutions to meet future demand, and promoting new energy resource development in the region.
"Such progress contributes to enhancing the economic connectivity within the region and with world markets, and to the rational use of vital resources such as energy and water," they noted.
ADB has attached high priority to regional cooperation in Central Asia since it initiated the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Program in 1997. The program’s primary objective is to promote economic growth and raise living standards by encouraging economic cooperation among the participating countries.
At the end of 2002, ADB had supported this effort through the provision of US$172 million in loans and about US$23 million in technical assistance.
ADB’s regional cooperation strategy for Central Asia has four pillars:
1. Building confidence and mutual trust to realize the benefits of regional cooperation
2. Focusing on regional investments with tangible mutual benefits
3. Reaching out to neighboring countries and the world market
4. Systematic institutional support for the planning and implementation of specific projects
At the invitation of the Government of Kazakhstan, the Ministers agreed that the Third Ministerial Conference on Central Asia Economic Cooperation will be held in Kazakhstan next year.
UzReport, November 13, 2003