The world is going through a difficult period. As a result of increased international competition, contradictions in the field of global security have deepened, which has led to many sanctions restrictions on trade. This has a devastating effect on trade flows and international value chains, writes Obid Khakimov.
As the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev said: “Today we are witnessing an unprecedented lack of dialogue and trust, growing uncertainty in international relations. All this undermines the foundations of multilateral cooperation, provokes the escalation of conflicts, leads to systemic failures in the global economy.”
A number of events have recently been held in Astana (Kazakhstan): a meeting of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA), the Council of CIS Heads of State and the Central Asia-Russia Summit. During his working visit to Astana on October 12-14, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev took part in them, and held a number of important bilateral meetings with the leaders of the states.
Uzbekistan in CICA
The Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia is an international forum aimed at expanding cooperation in the fields of security and stability, enhancing trade and economic partnership in Asia. The Forum started its activity in 1999. The highest body of the CICA is the Summit of Heads of State and Government. Currently, there are 28 States participating in it. Nine countries and five international organizations have observer status. The total area of the organization’s member states is one third of the globe’s land area. More than half of the population lives in these countries – more than four billion people.
Our country’s participation in this forum is in line with the principles of Uzbekistan’s foreign policy – openness, pragmatism, indivisibility of security, development of good-neighborly relations with neighboring countries, strengthening regional and international cooperation. Within the framework of the CICA, Uzbekistan takes an active position aimed at solving urgent challenges of a regional and international nature.
So, at the penultimate CICA summit, held on June 15, 2019 in Dushanbe, the President of Uzbekistan has put forward initiatives to strengthen cooperation within the framework of this organisation in the following areas: countering the radicalisation of youth; establishing a dialogue to preserve inter-religious harmony, education and cultural enrichment; securing for Uzbekistan the role of coordinator of the CICA on confidence-building measures in the field of scientific, educational, cultural and humanitarian cooperation.
In connection with the implementation of this initiative, since November 2020, Uzbekistan has been assigned the role of coordinator for confidence-building measures in the human dimension. In addition, the Agency for Youth Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan is the co-chairman of the CICA Youth Council. Since 2021, the Institute for Strategic and Interregional Studies under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan has been designated a permanent member of the Forum of CICA Analytical Centers from Uzbekistan.
At the Forum on Confidence-Building Measures in Asia
The sixth CICA forum was held against the background of the aggravation of the international situation in the Eurasian space. The forum was attended by about 50 delegations from participating countries and observers as well as international and regional organizations. The leaders of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Belarus as well as the Vice-Chairman of China and the Vice-President of Vietnam participated. Following the forum, the Astana Statement on the Transformation of the CICA was adopted.
We are talking about raising its status and turning it into an authoritative international organization. Kuwait has also become a new member of the organization.
Speaking at the forum, the Head of our State noted that “new geopolitical realities have a negative impact on the stability of the entire Asian region. The crisis phenomena directly affect the states of Central Asia and hinder our efforts to deepen economic integration.”
According to the leader of Uzbekistan, the situation in Afghanistan requires special attention, which, against the background of other acute international problems, has begun to fade into the background. It is necessary to develop common, coordinated approaches to interaction with the Interim Government of Afghanistan. The President suggested considering the possibility of a joint appeal by Asian countries to the UN General Assembly with an initiative to form a high-level international negotiating group to prepare and coordinate with the Afghan authorities an algorithm for step-by-step fulfillment of the obligations of the parties.
Another important security challenge is the broad expansion of radical ideas, the active involvement of young people in extremist organizations by destructive forces. As co-chairman of the CICA Youth Council, Uzbekistan proposed to launch a new format – the Dialogue of Generations, designed to promote better understanding between people of different ages, joint search for solutions to the most pressing problems of youth. “We are ready to hold the first such meeting within the framework of the Youth Leaders Forum in Samarkand in April 2023,” – President Shavkat Mirziyoyev noted.
The President called the adaptation of our economies to the negative consequences of the global crisis a key issue on the summit agenda. He called for preventing the strengthening of protectionism and the introduction of new restrictions that destabilize global markets; as well as strengthening interconnectedness in the Asian region, primarily through the creation of production and logistics chains and transport corridors that effectively connect Central Asia with South and East Asia as well as the Middle East.
The President proposed to use the potential of innovation transfer more fully, actively stimulate digitalization, the development of «cloud» technologies, artificial intelligence.
Ensuring food security is a global problem: most of the countries of our continent are the main importers of food and are acutely aware of the consequences of the food crisis. The paradox is that our countries are also the world’s leading food producers. In this regard, the Head of our State proposed new approaches to overcome problems in the field of food security, including the formation of sustainable food production schemes and optimal chains of their delivery, the harmonization of technical regulations for the growth of intraregional trade, the creation of an integrated food security monitoring system in Asia. “These issues will be discussed at an international conference under the FAO, which will be held in Uzbekistan in 2023,” – President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said.
At the CIS Summit
The meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Commonwealth of Independent States, chaired by the President of Kazakhstan, was attended by the leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan. The issues of expanding cooperation in the political, trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian spheres were considered.
In his speech, the Head of our State presented Uzbekistan’s point of view on key areas of strengthening partnership within the CIS. The trade turnover of Uzbekistan with the Commonwealth states increased by 35% last year, and since the beginning of this year it has grown by another third. Cooperation projects in mechanical engineering, energy, chemical, pharmaceutical, textile and other industries are being successfully implemented. In recent months alone, more than 800 new enterprises have been launched with partners from CIS countries. Cultural ties are developing intensively.
President Shavkat Mirziyoyev noted that it is necessary to take effective measures to eliminate barriers to mutual trade as soon as possible. The Republic is ready to completely abolish the existing exemptions from the free trade regime within the CIS. In addition, Uzbekistan has made a fundamental decision to join the Rules for Determining the Country of Origin of Goods (2009) and expects reciprocal steps from partners in the Commonwealth. In order to implement the CIS Economic Development Strategy for the period up to 2030, it was proposed to hold consultations within a month with the development of specific measures to stimulate the growth of mutual trade.
A critically important area is the joint development of new logistics corridors, in particular railways on the routes Termez–Mazar-i-Sharif–Kabul–Peshawar as well as China–Kyrgyzstan–Uzbekistan, which will contribute to the transformation of the CIS into a key link in transcontinental transportation, reducing their time and cost at times.
In order to implement the adopted strategic program documents in the field of innovative interaction and youth cooperation, the President proposed to hold the first Congress of Young Scientists of the CIS countries in Uzbekistan next year under the motto “Youth for innovation”, and to organise a fair of startup projects and innovative developments, presentations and master classes from the world industry’s leaders of the 4th generation.
Following the results of the CIS summit, a package of 18 documents was adopted in various areas: an Agreement on Cooperation of the CIS Member States in Combating Corruption and an Agreement on the Formation of an Advisory Council of Heads of Electoral Bodies of the CIS Member States, a decision on the preparation of a draft Agreement on Free Trade in Services of Institutions, Activities and Investments, a decision on the announcement in the CIS – 2024 as the Year of the Volunteer Movement, 2025 – as the Year of the 80th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War – The Year of Peace and Unity in the Fight Against Nazism, and 2026 – the Year of Health Protection.
Central Asia–Russia and other countries
The President of Uzbekistan also took part in the Central Asia–Russia summit, which was also attended by the Presidents of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Russia. It was held at the highest level for the first time.
The Head of our State has put forward a number of initiatives to strengthen regional cooperation, designed to bring the partnership to a higher level in trade, economic, transport and communication, energy, cultural and humanitarian spheres, as well as in the field of environmental protection.
On the sidelines of these multilateral events, the President of Uzbekistan held important bilateral meetings.
At the meeting with President of the Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, special attention was paid to the promotion of joint investment projects, the participation of leading Turkish companies in the privatization of state-owned enterprises in our country, and issues of preparation for the upcoming summit of the Organization of Turkic States in Samarkand were discussed. An agreement was reached to deepen the dialogue within the framework of the ministerial meetings in the Uzbekistan–Turkey–Azerbaijan format.
Issues of expanding cooperation between the two countries were discussed with Prime Minister of Pakistan Shahbaz Sharif and prospects for the implementation of the strategic project for the construction of the Termez–Mazar-i-Sharif–Kabul–Peshawar railway were discussed.
With the Vice-President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Vo Thi Anh Xuan, the possibilities of cooperation and the implementation of joint projects in such promising areas as rice farming, cotton growing, processing of meat and dairy, production of chemical and textile products, production of automotive components and electronics were noted. In the coming months, mutual visits at the expert level will take place, the activities of the Uzbek-Vietnamese Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical cooperation will resume, and the Uzbek-Vietnamese Business Council has also been launched.
At the meeting with the President of the Republic of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon, the expansion of cooperation and deepening of regional partnership in Central Asia were discussed. The necessity of practical implementation of agreements on increasing trade turnover, implementation of priority investment projects in the field of industry, energy, transport, infrastructure, agriculture was noted. Issues of cooperation within regional structures, including the SCO and the CIS, were discussed.
Uzbekistan’s active participation in international meetings in Astana shows that in conditions of uncertainty of the situation in the international arena, a low level of trust between countries, our republic conducts an open, constructive policy aimed at strengthening peace. The leadership of Uzbekistan voices the need for a constant dialogue on confidence-building, resolving any disputes exclusively by political and diplomatic means.
The analysis of these initiatives shows that economic considerations prevail over political ambitions in Uzbekistan, which is especially important in conditions of not only political, but also economic tension in the world. Examples of a number of countries where prices are rising, inflation reduces the standard of living of the population, exacerbates internal problems and increases social tension show how negative the reverse approach is for economic development.
The key initiatives of Uzbekistan are to further reduce trade barriers, which increases the competitiveness of the country’s economy. Next – attention to logistics and transport corridors. This is also the solution of food security issues, which, in the current conditions of rising prices and supply disruptions, are key both in terms of curbing inflation and providing the population with affordable and high-quality food. This is the development of cooperation with other countries, which allows you to create new industries and jobs. And, finally, mutually beneficial partnership with neighbors in the region, which serves to strengthen trust, peace and stability and contributes to the dynamic development of both Uzbekistan and neighbouring countries.
Given that economic security is closely linked to preventing the disruption of supplies or a sharp rise in prices for goods critical to the country’s economy and population, the policy pursued by the leadership of Uzbekistan in the international arena, including during the visit of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to Astana, is primarily aimed at strengthening economic and social security, which is in preventing a drop in the standard of living of the population and is directly related to ensuring economic security and the availability of socially important goods.
The author, Dr. Obid Hakimov, is the Director of the Centre for Economic Research and Reforms under the Administration of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan