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Need Reform In Uzbekistan

The United States is committed to helping the countries of Central Asia develop economically and politically. Evan Feigenbaum, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, says America’s goal is “to support the development of fully sovereign, stable, democratic nations, integrated into the world economy and cooperating with one another, the United States, and our partners to advance regional security and stability.”

But not all Central Asian countries are pursuing policies to expand wealth and broaden opportunity. Uzbekistan is a case in point. As the most populous nation in Central Asia, situated at the crossroads of historic trade links, and with significant human and natural resources, Uzbekistan should be a leader in its region. But the reported killing of hundreds of civilians by government forces in Andijan in May 2005 and abysmal human rights conditions have only isolated Uzbekistan from the international community.

Lack of political reform is compounded by barriers to trade and investment. Establishing the rule of law, for instance, is critical for economic growth. Over the long-term, said Mr. Feigenbaum, “no company will invest where the rule of law is lacking, where contracts are not sacred, and where a firm has uncertain means of legal redress in the event of a contractual dispute. The rule of law is also,” he said, “a prerequisite for a confident and vibrant domestic economy, which would benefit Uzbekistan very directly.”

In the meantime, American enterprises continue to face high barriers in Uzbekistan, including import duties, restrictive licensing requirements, and the selective application of the law. This cannot possibly benefit the Uzbek people. Such conditions deter American and other foreign investors. In 2005, U.S. goods exports to Uzbekistan were down sixty-eight percent from 2004.

By creating barriers to trade, the Uzbek government is denying its people the opportunity to benefit from an expanding economy. “The United States,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Feigenbaum, “continues to hope that the government of Uzbekistan will turn from its current course and make a strategic choice in favor of reform and partnership.”

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.