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AKIPRESS.COM - Membership in the WTO should make Kazakhstan an even more attractive partner for global business and investment, including from the United States, said US Ambassador to Kazakhstan George A. Krol in an interview with AKIpress.
Q: In your view, will Kazakhstan's accession to WTO boost Kazakh-American trade?
A. First, allow me to congratulate Kazakhstan on becoming a WTO member and to say the United States has always been supportive of Kazakhstan’s efforts to join the WTO. Membership in the WTO should make Kazakhstan an even more attractive partner for global business and investment, including from the United States. I know there are many American business, and businesses from numerous WTO countries watching the Kazakhstani market looking for opportunities to invest. WTO membership will certainly give a boost to trade relations with the USA, which are already increasing. For example last year, trade turnover between our countries totaled almost $2.5billion, and Chevron alone has contributed over a $100 billion to the Kazakhstani economy since independence. I encourage Kazakhstan to keep reducing the “red tape” laws that make it difficult for businesses to open. Simplified laws that promote business help to attract foreign investors, and more importantly, business-friendly laws help Kazakhstani entrepreneurs open businesses.
Q: Do you think Astana's hosting of EXPO in 2017 is going to be a success?
A. Kazakhstan hosting EXPO 2017 is great opportunity for the country to raise its profile in the global community and marketplace. I am particularly happy with Kazakhstan’s choice of the theme for EXPO-17 “Future Energy,” which is very much in line with President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. We all understand the world has no choice but to embrace green technologies. EXPO-2017 will enable Kazakhstan to promote and discover sustainable, global energy solutions and showcase its own efforts in this sphere. This world-class event has the potential to attract hundreds of millions of dollars and immeasurable international exposure to the culture and economy of Kazakhstan. I see the cranes building this incredible Expo-park, which, incidentally, was designed by an American architectural firm. I am confident EXPO-17 will be a success.
Q: Do you think “Nurly Zhol” and “100 Steps Plan” will help Kazakhstan become one of top-30 countries of the world? What direction you think should Kazakhstan work on to achieve its ambitious goals to join top-30 developed countries of the world?
A. The Nurly Zhol (Bright Path) strategy and 100 Steps Plan lay out an admirably comprehensive reform agenda that will transform every sector and every area of society. These are laudable goals and deserve to be taken seriously by the international community. The United States welcomes Kazakhstan’s commitment to delivering wide-ranging institutional changes, to increasing prosperity for Kazakhstan’s middle class and support to small and medium-sized businesses, and to protecting the rights of investors. The kind of transparency promoted by these reforms is an essential element to fight corruption. If properly implemented, these programs can enable Kazakhstan to kick-start economic growth, modernize infrastructure, boost trade, and move up the economic ladder.
Q: What areas of cooperation with Central Asia, particularly with Kazakhstan, does the US government prioritize?
A. I am proud to say the United States was the first country to establish an embassy in Kazakhstan. We did so because we immediately understood the strategic importance of Kazakhstan. In the first few years, our nations cooperated primarily in the energy sector and security. Now cooperation has expanded into high tech, education, security, and law enforcement spheres -- you name it. We have broad cooperation with Kazakhstani partners in many exciting projects including those that address HIV/AIDS, support entrepreneurship, and increase regional trade.
We have built strong cooperation in the agricultural sector. We are working with the Ministry of Agriculture and Kazakhstani grain millers on wheat fortification efforts. Kazakhstan’s leadership in fortifying wheat has the potential to dramatically improve nutrition across the region, especially for children. We have been closely cooperating in the animal husbandry sector. For example, last year 2,000 cows were flown to Kazakhstan in a bid to improve breeding stock. American tractors, combines, and other farm equipment are helping make food in Kazakhstan more affordable and Kazakhstani exports more competitive.
One of our highest priorities in Central Asia is to advance regional economic cooperation and connectivity, order to advance prosperity and stability. Kazakhstan has been a very strong partner in this area. Situated at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Kazakhstan has potential to be a transportation hub. We are also partners in fighting the drug trade and combatting global organized crime, terrorism, and extremism. Kazakhstan played an important role in hosting the regional conference on Combatting Violent Extremism in June 2015. This was a key event building towards a Countering Violent Extremism Summit to be held in September on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly.
In terms of areas for potential future development, there are many areas in which we could cooperate and where Kazakhstan has a competitive edge: food processing; petrochemicals; construction materials; metallurgy; expanding industrial production in cars, locomotives and heavy machinery, and electrical power generation.
Q: Is the US-Kazakh legal cooperation strong? Will the ratification of the Inter-AmericanConvention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters be enough for Kazakhstan to bring Azamat Tazhayakov and Diyas Kadyrbaev to Kazakhstan? Is it possible for the Kazakh students to serve their sentences at home?
A.Signing a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) is a sure indication that two nations have active cooperation in law enforcement. I am glad to say that over the nearly twenty-five years since Kazakhstani independence, our countries have established a remarkably effective and productive partnership in this area. We have been pleased to help facilitate Kazakhstan’s efforts to build up its legal institutions and reform its judicial system. We welcome Kazakhstan’s efforts to further strengthen the rule of law through a more expert and impartial judiciary with better trained and accountable police as envisioned in President Nazarbayev’s reform agenda and the 100 steps. The expansion of trial by jury will increase every citizen’s role and trust in the process. So, too, will the creation of local police, who can respond to the priorities of the communities they serve. We have partnered with Kazakhstan to reduce trafficking in persons through law enforcement and through prevention.
Concerning your question about prisoner transfers, there is currently no mechanism to bring convicted felons from the United States to Kazakhstan to serve their sentences. The United States is a party to two multilateral conventions on prisoner transfers: the Council of Europe (COE) Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons and the Inter-American Convention on Serving Criminal Sentences Abroad. Because every criminal case is different, it impossible for me to predict whether Kazakhstan ratifying one of these conventions would affect Mr.Tazhayakov or Mr.Kadyrbaev.Q: Do you think Nursultan Nazarbayev's move to hold snap elections was needed in times of world economic slowdown?
A. Every nation decides when to schedule its own elections according to its constitution and laws. The important point is that elections be free and fair, allow choices and ultimately reflect the genuine will of the voters.
Q: How the US Embassy in Kazakhstan reacted to the news on Kyrgyzstan's denunciation of the 1993 Cooperation Agreement with the US? Will it impact on the US-Kazakhstan relations?
А. The Kyrgyz government’s renunciation of the 1993 Bilateral Agreement disappointed the United States. Nevertheless, the United States is committed to maintaining a deep, mutually beneficial partnership with the Kyrgyz Republic based on mutual respect and mutual interest. The United States was one of the first countries to recognize the Kyrgyz Republic’s independence and since then has provided nearly $2 billion in assistance under the terms of the 1993 Agreement. The goal of that assistance has been to support the Kyrgyz Republic’s own stated goal to create a stable, prosperous, secure democratic state. For 23 years, the U.S. and the Kyrgyz Republic have used this agreement to build a vibrant partnership in areas such as education, healthcare, economic growth, and job creation. The U.S. wants this partnership to continue and grow. The United States is currently working with the Kyrgyz Republic to find the ways to do this according the laws of both our countries.
Q: How in your opinion does the worsening of the US-Russian relations affect the relations of the US with Kazakhstan and its government taking into account that Russia and Kazakhstan are close economic and political allies?
A. Kazakhstan and all countries in this region should have peaceful, productive relations with neighbors near and far, including Russia, China, the United States, and others. Although the United States and Russia differ sharply over the situation in Ukraine, the United States does not oppose Kazakhstan and Russia having strong, close ties. The United States supports Kazakhstan’s independence, sovereignty and right to choose its own path and partnerships. Through its membership in the Eurasian Economic Union and its accession to the WTO, Kazakhstan is demonstrating that it wants to trade with its traditional partners and with nations around the world including the United States. The United States respects Kazakhstan’s multi-vector foreign policy and believes an inclusive set of relationships, built on mutual interests and mutual respect, serves everyone’s interests. The sanctions applied by the United States and European countries target specific individuals and companies in Russia, not the Russian people and certainly not the people or economy of Kazakhstan. The position of the United States and the European Union is united and clear. Sanctions will be lifted once Russia demonstrates it is implementing the Minsk accords. We all hope that it will be very soon.
I would like to note that despite our major disagreement over Ukraine, the United States and Russia continue to cooperate on areas of mutual agreement such as countering violent extremism and terrorism, combatting the smuggling of illegal narcotics, and preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons as demonstrated most recently in conclusion of the Comprehensive Joint Action Plan with Iran. The United States and Russia are not mortal enemies. We have been and should be allies. We may have our disagreements but, at the end of day, the United States and Russia need each other, and the world is a better, safer place when all our countries work together and not against each other.