Washington, D.C. – Today, United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk hosted the sixth meeting of the United States – Central Asia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council in Washington, D.C. Attendees included delegations from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan, as well as officials from numerous other U.S. Government agencies, including the Departments of Commerce, State, Agriculture, and Defense.
In a statement at the meeting, Ambassador Kirk congratulated these partner countries for their 20 years of independence. "I am proud of the strong and steadily improving relationship the United States has with the nations of Central Asia,” he said. “We were one of the first countries to recognize the newly independent countries of Central Asia in 1991. And now, 20 years later, we are more committed than ever to working with this region to ensure that our shared commitment to lowering barriers to trade and investment is realized. It is my hope that we can continue to work toward a more integrated Central Asian region and remove barriers to trade between the U.S. and Central Asia."
Through a TIFA Council decision, Ambassador Kirk and the five Central Asian ministers and ambassadors formally established bilateral working groups under the TIFA. On September 14, members of the Afghanistan delegation held bilateral working group sessions with the United States, even though Afghanistan is an observer to the TIFA. The United States also hosted bilateral working group sessions with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan on September 14 and 15 leading up to the TIFA Council meeting. On September 15, the Central Asian and Afghanistan delegations met with private sector representatives to discuss ways to promote trade and investment in each country. The countries hope to include a private sector meeting on the margins of each TIFA Council meeting.
The meeting focused on the importance of reducing or eliminating barriers to trade and investment in Central Asia and facilitating cross-border transactions. Kazakhstan provided an overview of the newly formed Kazakhstan-Belarus-Russia Customs Union. Other attendees provided updates on efforts to accede to the World Trade Organization (WTO), with the exception of Kyrgyzstan, who has been a WTO Member since 1998. USTR staff provided an overview of the Special 301 Intellectual Property Report process and led a discussion on how the Central Asian countries can address concerns with intellectual property protections. Afghanistan provided its perspectives on the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) and the implications for trade and investment in the region, as well as its negotiations for WTO Accession. Each country provided its views on the proposed New Silk Road initiative for all of Central Asia. The Departments of Defense and State gave a joint presentation on the New Silk Road initiative.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the Parties agreed that it provided an important forum to exchange views on trade and investment issues and look forward to the next TIFA Council meeting in 2012. Ambassador Demetrios Marantis, Deputy United States Trade Representative endorsed the proposal by Minister Aitzhanova of Kazakhstan to have discussions within the TIFA on trade and gender issues and encouraged the Central Asian countries to choose the next location for the TIFA Council meeting somewhere in Central Asia.