In an increasingly connected global economy, regional integration and cooperation is crucial to long-term prosperity. That is why twelve years ago, in an effort to realize their enormous but largely untapped potential, ten Central Asian countries-- Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, the People’s Republic of China, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan; and six multilateral institutions formed the Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation, or CAREC.
Speaking at the 12th CAREC anniversary meeting which took place in Astana, Kazakhstan in late October, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Fatema Sumar said that CAREC member countries can lay the groundwork for regional economic connectivity. Cooperation is particularly important this year, because 2014 will be a significant year for CAREC, as the Central Asian region will face new challenges once NATO forces withdraw from Afghanistan.
“The United States is committed to the New Silk Road vision and the CAREC framework,” she said. “We have already invested significant resources and political capital in helping link Afghanistan to her neighbors.”
This includes 2 billion dollars of energy transmission lines, hydropower plants and more than 3,000 kilometers of new and rehabilitated roads. The United States helped Afghanistan accede to the International Road Transport system, which allows Afghan trucks to transit through South Central Asia and beyond.
Thanks to the collective efforts of CAREC and the United States, Afghanistan now trades more with countries in South and Central Asia than the rest of the world, said Deputy Assistant Secretary Sumar. “Our collective goal is to bring down the costs of doing business in the region as well as reduce other barriers to transit and trade,” she said.
“CAREC works because the countries of greater Central Asia themselves drive the vision on how best to cooperate. . . . Now, more than ever, we need to work together to lay the foundation for economic transformation in the [Central Asian] region,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary Sumar.
“There is much more to do, and we want to do it together through successful platforms like CAREC.”