"The Obama Administration places a high priority on building partnerships in Central Asia that could contribute to Central Asia becoming a new crossroads for trade and ideas," said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake at a recent American-Uzbek Business Forum. The forum was a combined effort of the U.S. Department of State and the Government of Uzbekistan, aimed at attracting U.S. investment to the Central Asian country.
Last December, high-ranking U.S. and Uzbek officials met at the first U.S-Uzbek annual bilateral consultations to discuss a wide range of issues of interest to both countries, including human rights, political, security, and economic and trade relations.
One of the top priorities identified at this meeting was the need to promote increased trade and investment opportunities between the 2 countries.
"Since these consultations, Uzbekistan has taken steps to show that it is open for business," said Assistant Secretary of State Blake. Earlier this year, "Uzbekistan hosted both the annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank and the Central Asia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement Working Group meeting in Tashkent. Both of these events helped to highlight Uzbekistan's potential, as well as that of Central Asia as a region, as a bridge between East and West, North and South, as it was during the times of the historic Silk Road."
Uzbekistan is rich in oil and natural gas, and holds large reserves of copper, lead, zinc, tungsten and uranium. It also boasts the world's fourth-largest gold reserves. But Uzbekistan is also interested in developing its technological capabilities in the manufacturing sector, said Assistant Secretary Blake, and it is looking for investors.
Indeed, although in the past, Uzbekistan's cautious approach to market reform created what many potential investors perceived as an unfavorable climate for investment, the country has gone through a sea change, and today, is courting international corporations and investors, offering good financing and tax advantages.
Nonetheless, Uzbekistan still needs to make a number of changes, such as reforming the tax administration and the exchange system, loosening the monetary and exchange rate policy, and deepening the financial sector. Such changes would remove unnecessary obstacles, making the country more attractive to foreign investment.
"Since Uzbekistan's independence, U.S. firms have invested roughly $500 million U.S. in Uzbekistan," said Assistant Secretary Blake." And I believe there is room for much more."