United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk today hosted economic and trade ministers from six countries for the fifth meeting of the United States-Central Asia Trade and Investment Framework Council. Attendees included delegations from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, all of which are parties to the United States-Central Asia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). A delegation from Afghanistan also attended the meeting, participating as observers.
Participants also included officials from numerous other U.S. Government agencies, including the Department of Commerce, Department of State, Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the U.S. Forest Service. This breadth of participation is an indication of the broad-based commitment the Administration is making to deepen U.S. relationships in the region. This commitment was emphasized when Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke joined Ambassador Kirk for a portion of the discussions with the Ministers.
After meeting, Ambassador Kirk said, "America made a commitment to this TIFA in 2004, years before I became the Trade Representative, and I maintain that commitment today. I want to take our commitment one step further, because I believe that this TIFA has tremendous potential, most of which remains unrealized. We need to take steps toward realizing that potential. And we have already begun to do so."
"The U.S.-Central Asia TIFA process represents an important forum for building America's trade and investment relationships with Central Asian nations," Ambassador Kirk added. "Central Asia is already an important market for many U.S. exporters and energy companies. My Central Asian counterparts and I are eager to build on that foundation."
To that end, Ambassador Kirk and the six ministers worked to develop new solutions to expand trade and investment among the TIFA countries, emphasizing the importance of reducing or eliminating barriers to trade and facilitating cross-border transactions. In their discussions, the ministers agreed to new mechanisms that will increase the trade-enhancing benefits of the TIFA. These mechanisms include a new mid-year meeting of a regional TIFA Working Group to maintain consistent dialogue on TIFA issues and press ahead with regional cooperation, as well as new bilateral dialogues between the United States and each of the Central Asian TIFA partners. These bilateral dialogues recognize the unique nature of each country in the region and present an opportunity for the United States and its TIFA partners to focus on interests and issues on a country-specific basis.
In addition to today's TIFA meeting, USTR partnered with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which hosted a public-private conference on U.S.-Central Asia trade and investment on Wednesday, October 7, titled "Silk Road Trade and Investment: New Pathways for U.S.-Central Asia Economic Ties". The event featured remarks by Deputy USTR Demetrios Marantis. Those remarks can be found here.