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Central Asian Economic Development

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Evan Feigenbaum says the primary goal of U.S. policy in Central Asia 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.”

Dr. Feigenbaum said the U.S. views the five nations of Central Asia – Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan – “as our primary partners in this region.” He said the U.S. rejects “the notion, once again so fashionable, that Central Asia is merely an arena for outside powers to compete for influence.”

To foster economic growth in the region, said Dr. Feigenbaum, integration and reform are necessary. “Integration,” he said, means “cross-border economic linkages: trade, investment, and the human and physical infrastructure that facilitate them.” That means not only roads and power lines but complementary trade polices. It also means promoting the rule of law. “How many companies will invest where the rule of law is uncertain,” said Dr. Feigenbaum, and “where contracts can be shredded at whim, and firms have uncertain means of legal redress in the event of a contractual dispute?”

The U.S. is working with Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and other countries to develop a regional market for electricity. The U.S. will host a forum in April to help Central and South Asian partners attract additional investment in telecommunications through regulatory reform.

Later this year, a U.S.-funded thirty-six million dollar Afghan-Tajik bridge will open twenty-four hours a day, with customs and border facilities to handle up to one-thousand vehicles per day. The U.S. is providing sixty-five million dollars to fund other customs and border facilities throughout Central Asia. And the U.S. continues to seek to reduce barriers to trade and investment through its Central Asia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, which includes all five Central Asian countries, with Pakistan and Afghanistan as observers.

“It is a volatile, but exciting time in Central Asia,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Evan Feigenbaum. The United States, he said, looks forward “to helping provide greater choices and options, and to enhancing the long-term stability and prosperity of all.”