USTR works bilaterally and multilaterally to build strong trade and investment links with the countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. These emerging Central Asian economies constitute growing markets for US exports and services and strategic destinations for investment in sectors such as oil/gas, mining, manufacturing, and food processing. USTR’s initiatives include efforts to increase regional integration and trade among the Central Asian countries themselves and with neighboring Afghanistan, in support of the U.S. goal of stabilizing Afghanistan’s economy. Individually the Central Asian Republics represent attractive but rather small markets for trade and investment – Kazakhstan – 17 million people, Kyrgyzstan 5.5 million people, Tajikistan 7.5 million people, Turkmenistan 5 million people, Uzbekistan 28.5 million people and Afghanistan 30 million people. However, taken together Central Asia and Afghanistan constitute a market with approximately 93.5 million people.
Several Bilateral Agreements and Preferences Programs are already in place:
• Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) benefits apply to products from the region's eligible beneficiary developing countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan).
• Bilateral Investment Treaties are in force with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
• Bilateral trade agreements to extend Normal Trade Relations and to enhance intellectual property rights protection are in force with all of these countries.
Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA):
• In 2004, the United States and the five Central Asian Republics signed the United States – Central Asia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). Among its key objectives is the aim to “take appropriate measures to encourage and facilitate the exchange of goods and services to secure favorable conditions for long-term development and diversification of trade between and amongst the Parties.”
• Afghanistan is an observer in this agreement and participates in its meetings.
• The TIFA Council, attended by each Party’s senior trade official (usually at the Ministerial level), meets annually to discuss trade and investment issues and work to make progress toward realizing the goals of the Agreement.
• In 2012, the TIFA Council was held in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
• At the 2012 TIFA Council, the Parties established Bilateral Working Groups where the Parties can meet on a bilateral basis to discuss trade and investment issues and attempt to make progress between the annual TIFA Council meetings.
• In 2013, Working Groups are being launched in the areas of 1) standards and SPS; 2) customs; 3) empowerment of women; and 4) transparency and public participation.
• The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for fall of 2013.
World Trade Organization (WTO) Accession:
In 2013, WTO accession negotiations with the countries of Central Asia will be a major focus for USTR. USTR leads U.S. Government efforts to bring the countries of Central Asia into the WTO. WTO accession is an important way to support economic, legislative and regulatory reform in these countries. Negotiations will entail creating new market openings for goods and services and transforming the trade and investment regimes of these countries to make them consistent with WTO rules. Other benefits of WTO accession include:
• Adoption of the same rules helps remove barriers to trade among Members, providing larger markets and more competition.
• By reconstructing its legal and regulatory regime to comply with WTO commitments Members create a strong domestic framework for enhanced growth, investment, and employment.
• Membership both grants rights and creates obligations for acceding countries in the global trading system, further encouraging commercial expansion.
• Membership also makes a dispute settlement mechanism available.
Status of WTO Accession of Central Asian Countries
• Kyrgyzstan joined the WTO in 1998.
• Tajikistan completed its membership negotiations on 26 October 2012. The WTO’s General Council approved the accession on 10 December 2012. Tajikistan will become the 159th WTO member on 2 March 2013. WTO website on Tajikistan: http://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/acc_e/a1_tajikistan_e.htm
• Kazakhstan intensified its work on negotiations for its accession to the WTO in 2012, advancing both technical and substantive aspects of the negotiations. The accession package under negotiation consists of: 1) schedules of goods and services market access commitments; 2) a Working Party report and Protocol of Accession recording how Kazakhstan will implement WTO provisions; and 3) commitments on domestic agricultural support and export subsidies.
• The United States and Kazakhstan signed a WTO bilateral agreement on market access for goods on November 22, 2010, and a market access agreement on services on September 21, 2011. Kazakhstan concluded bilateral market access negotiations on goods and services with almost all WTO Members participating in its Working Party during 2011, and the WTO Secretariat spent most of 2012 consolidating these agreements into draft schedules.
• For more information on Kazakhstan’s accession, see: http://www.ustr.gov/trade-agreements/wto-multilateral-affairs/wto-access...
• WTO website on Kazakhstan: http://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/acc_e/a1_kazakhstan_e.htm
• Uzbekistan, the most populous country in the region, is resuming work on its WTO accession process in 2013. The process, begun in 1994, has been essentially dormant since 2005. For more information, see: http://www.ustr.gov/trade-agreements/wto-multilateral-affairs/wto-access...
• WTO website on Uzbekistan: http://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/acc_e/a1_ouzbekistan_e.htm
• Turkmenistan has announced its intention to apply for WTO Membership in early 2013. The next step would be the creation of a Working Party to begin the process of negotiating for accession to the WTO.