Kazakhstan-U.S. Strategic Partnership Commission/Dialogue’s Inaugural Meeting Opens a New Avenue for Bilateral CooperationPosted on April 23rd, 2012 No comments
I am pleased to report the conclusion of what was a tremendously productive week in U.S.-Kazakh relations. Last week, on April 9-11, the inaugural meeting of the Kazakh-American Strategic Partnership Commission/Dialogue (SPC/D) was held here in Washington, D.C. The decision to establish the SPC/D was made at last February’s meeting between Kazakh Foreign Minister Erzhan Kazykhanov and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in order to provide a mechanism to enhance the bilateral dialogue and strengthen our partnership on a wide range of key issues.
The meeting was co-chaired by Deputy Foreign Minister Kairat Umarov and Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake. The Kazakh delegation included Vice-Minister of Industry and Trade Kanysh Tuleushin, Ambassador-at-Large Madina Jarbussynova, Ambassador-at-Large and Director of Americas Department Askar Tazhiev and myself. We were joined by senior officials from the Foreign Ministry, the Prosecutor General’s Office, Ministries of Economic Development and Trade, Defense, as well as our new trade promotion agency, KAZNEX Invest. and Kazakhstan’s business and academic communities who met their American counterparts during the two days of meetings.
Senior members of the United States’ delegation expressed appreciation for Kazakhstan’s support for the U.S. coalition in Afghanistan, including its contribution to development of critical Northern Distribution Network as well as a scholarship program to train Afghan students in Kazakh universities. We, in turn, spoke in support of Afghanistan’s integration into regional economic relations, and closer cooperation with its Central Asian neighbors.
The delegation then broke up into various smaller working groups designed to allow subject matter experts to exchange views and outline a joint course of action.
- The political working group agreed to promote non-proliferation and disarmament to follow up on the recent successful bilateral meeting between President Nazarbayev and President Obama in Seoul.
- The working group on economic cooperation focused on trade and investment issues and Kazakhstan’s prospective accession to the WTO. Both sides expressed satisfaction that the last year the volume of trade between the countries increased by 25.7 percent to $2.7 billion. As you know, the U.S. continues to be one of the leading investors in the Kazakh economy – with foreign direct investment exceeding $22 billion since 1993. In the energy sector, the sides reported progress on hydrocarbon extraction, the peaceful use of nuclear energy, alternative energy sources as well as energy saving technologies.
- The working group on science and technology agreed to strengthen collaboration in the fields of information and biotechnology, energy conservation and the commercialization of scientific innovations. The group’s main objective is to implement the Bilateral Agreement on Science and Technology, which was signed during President Nazarbayev’s visit to the U.S. in April, 2010. To ensure the timely execution of planned projects, videoconferencing, as well as traditional meetings of officials and scholars will be utilized. The key role is assigned to the University of Nazarbayev, which in a short time has established fruitful relationships with many prominent U.S. universities, including Carnegie Mellon, Duke, Pittsburgh and Harvard University.
- As part of a dialogue on the human dimension, an NGO Forum was held, which was attended by seventeen NGOs involved in Kazakhstan’s political modernization efforts. All parties pledged to continue constructive cooperation in Kazakhstan’s political development, improving its legislative framework and creating favorable conditions for the further strengthening of civil society. Opening the NGO Forum, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, Democracy, and Labor, Michael Posner noted that Kazakhstan has been witnessing positive changes in recent years. With the contributions from civil society, the Kazakh Government has adopted and is implementing the 2009-2012 National Human Rights Action Plan. Kazakhstan’s OSCE Chairmanship and the Astana Summit of the Organization in December 2010 had a positive impact on the modernization of the political culture in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan and the U.S. have agreed to share experiences on ensuring rule of law, good governance and democracy.
Major priorities of strategic partnership were further discussed by Deputy Minister Kairat Umarov during his separate meetings with senior officials from the U.S. State Department, National Security Council, as well as the Departments of Defense and Energy.
On the sidelines of the SPC/D, Kaznex Invest organized a “Road Show,” in cooperation with the US-Kazakhstan Business Association, in order to present investment opportunities and encourage direct business-to-business links with American business leaders from Case New Holland, DARPA, Raytheon, John Deere, AGCO, Caterpillar, Orbital Sciences, Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, Du Pont, Google, Transcosmos and many others. Secretary Blake, in his speech to the Road Show, recognized economic cooperation as the most important component of the U.S. – Kazakh strategic partnership.
Other speakers at the Road Show included Vice-Minister of Industry and Trade, Kanysh Tuleushin, and KazNex Invest’s Deputy Chairman of Board, Kairat Karmanov, who called on business executives of both countries to work together to make the most of Kazakhstan’s innovational and diversification efforts to find new niches in major sectors, including agriculture.
I would like to thank the U.S. – Kazakhstan Business Association for helping organize the Road Show and all that attended here in DC, as well as in New York City and San Francisco in the days that followed.
Overall, all the SPC/D discussions served to reaffirm the willingness of both sides to work together on the long-term goals identified by President Nazarbayev and President Obama at their meetings.
I am very much looking forward to returning home for the next meeting of the SPC/D, which is scheduled to be held in Astana next year. Until then, we will hold a mid-year review in New York later this year.
In the meantime, it will be my pleasure to keep you, My Friends, apprised of the progress we continue to make on deepening the economic and political ties between these two great nations.
Erlan A. Idrissov