Friday, February 19, 2016

Investment Forum Helps Raise Central Asia as Bridge Between China, Europe

ISTANBUL – The One Belt, One Road initiative to rejuvenate the old Silk Road, and efforts to convert the former Soviet republics of Central Asia into a bridge between China and Europe, were the main points discussed Thursday at a regional investment forum in Istanbul.

Organized by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Financial Times, the forum brought together high-ranking officials from China, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Mongolia.

The forum hopes to find investors to develop Central Asian infrastructure, especially roads and railways, but also electricity networks, to facilitate manufacturing and the export of goods to Europe.

Iran’s recent return to international markets is giving the region a much-needed spark and new opportunities, which some countries have been quick to seize upon.

The Government of Kazakhstan has already built a road through Turkmenistan to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas in the Persian Gulf, Kazakh Finance Minister Bakhyt Sultanov told EFE on the sidelines of the forum.

The European market remains the most important for Kazakhstan, making up half of the Republic’s trade volume, while Russia and China together only make up 25 percent, the minister said.

“We diversify exports, trade, investment, and, as a transit country, we need to diversify infrastructure,” Sultanov said.

This development initiative is also supported by the so-called Traceco program, which includes the five Central Asian republics, the three Caucasus, Iran, Turkey and Ukraine, as well as the EU, the minister said.

Sultanov said geopolitics and tensions between Russia and the EU did not influence the decision to bolster a “southern corridor” linking Central Asia through Iran and the Caspian Sea, the Caucasus and Turkey to Europe, noting that Kazakhstan will also expand a “northern corridor” through Russia.

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