Broadening its bilateral engagement with Uzbekistan and other Central Asian countries is an important strategic priority for the United States, said Robert Blake, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs.
That is why Assistant Secretary Blake traveled to Uzbekistan's capital, Tashkent, in late February for annual talks aimed at improving bilateral ties. He held the second round of annual bilateral consultations with the Uzbek government, and met with business and civil society leaders. Assistant Secretary Blake, along with a delegation of representatives from leading U.S. companies, attended the Uzbekistan-US Business Forum.
"The Obama Administration places a high priority on building economic partnerships in Uzbekistan and throughout Central Asia so this region once again can be a crossroads for trade and ideas," said Assistant Secretary Blake in his opening remarks at the Forum. "This effort includes working with Uzbekistan to improve the business environment in order to enhance investment opportunities for U.S. companies, which will in turn benefit economic growth in Uzbekistan."
Uzbekistan is making substantial contributions to U.S. and international efforts in Afghanistan. It supplies much-needed electricity to Kabul. It supports infrastructure projects in Afghanistan, including the construction of a critical railway line. It is an ally in the international effort to confront violent extremists in Afghanistan through its economic activities and cooperation with Afghanistan.
And it plays a critical role in the transport of non-lethal supplies via the Northern Distribution Network into Afghanistan. This network has the potential to improve transportation infrastructure and stimulate trade routes connecting Central Asia to the growing markets of South Asia. These efforts will have lasting economic benefits for the region.
Uzbekistan could benefit from strengthened trade ties in the region, said Assistant Secretary Blake.
"My wish is this forum will highlight Uzbekistan’s potential, and result in concrete new partnerships between our two business communities. I also hope that we can openly and constructively discuss ideas on how to make Uzbekistan a more attractive destination for business. Increasing our engagement and cooperation with Uzbekistan helps advance peace, democracy, economic stability, and sustainable growth across the region."