Once quite isolated, the region now becomes an indivisible part of the global community. The countries are intersecting in a whimsical interweaving of interests, as if the whole world is one big village.
This week, the Kazakhstani government went for a true round-the-world tour. One of the locations was Vietnam, where Tokayev stayed for 3 days. The main agenda of the visit was characterized by twelve bilateral agreements, the first steps towards a mutual visa-free regime, as well as an ambitious plan to increase trade to $1b. The agreements signed between the presidents are aimed to bolster trade, with the key one being the 2023 to 2025 Joint Action Plan and a Roadmap for Trade and Economic Cooperation.
Meanwhile, Hanoi also managed to enhance relations with Tashkent, which signed an agreement to begin geological exploration of oil and gas fields with Vietnam's Petrovietnam Exploration & Production (PVEP). The negotiations took place between the Agency for Strategic Reforms under the President, several ministries of Uzbekistan, and the vice president of PVEP. As a matter of fact this is not PVEP's first state contract in the country as back 2010, the company signed an agreement with "Uzbekneftegaz," and in 2015 began geological exploration work, which had to be suspended in 2016 due to the negative situation in the oil and gas market at that time.
Another country where the interests of Tashkent and Astana have intersected is Azerbaijan. President Mirziyoyev arrived in Baku for a meeting with Aliyev to discuss the use a mutual investment fund to implement joint projects, with the subsequent creation of a logistics company within the framework of the Trans-Caspian Corridor. The countries also plan to increase bilateral trade to $1b by mutually substituting imports from third countries. As a result of the meeting, 15 documents were signed including a roadmap for deepening strategic partnership in 2023-2024.
Following the presidents, the largest conglomerates in the countries - "Uzbekneftegaz" and SOCAR - signed an agreement on the implementation of joint projects, including the development of three hydrocarbon fields in Azerbaijan. In addition, SOCAR is expected to participate in geological exploration work in Uzbekistan, as well as the creation of a joint company, SOCAR Trading. At the end of the meeting, the heads of the companies signed a Memorandum of Intentions on trade and logistics of oil, petrochemical, gas chemical, and other petroleum products.
In turn, the telecommunications giant "Kazakhtelecom" closed its own deal with "Azertelecom" - the parties agreed to create a JV responsible for building fiber-optic communication lines along the bottom of the Caspian Sea. The project will become a part of the "Digital Silk Road" project aimed at improving internet connectivity in Central Asian and South Caucasus countries. The length of the submarine cable line connecting Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan will reach 380 kilometers with the capacity of the new line being 400 terabits per second.
Meanwhile, Kazakhstan's worldwide tour also included Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and China, where Astana discussed trade issues. Continuing the agenda, the First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan visited Buenos Aires, where he took part in the opening ceremony of the first Honorary Consulate of Kazakhstan in Argentina. Meanwhile, Tokayev hosted the Chairman of the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security, who discussed the issues of energy security, diversification of transport routes, mutual trade, and investment cooperation with the president.
This meeting became particularly notable in light of US President Joe Biden's announcement of plans to hold a summit with the leaders of Central Asian countries. The White House sent a letter to President Mirziyoyev, announcing the planned summit in the C5+1 format. According to the letter, the summit is scheduled for the week of September 20th of this year and will take place in New York City as part of the United Nations General Assembly.
However, while there’s still some time to the summit the summit, Tashkent chooses to continue building relations with the EU. This time with Hungary that welcomed a creation of a joint investment fund amounting of $100m - between the Hungarian OTP banking group and the State Investment Fund of Uzbekistan. The countries also decided to cooperate in the field of nuclear energy and launch an industrial zone for Hungarian investors by the end of this year, including for Hungarian pharmaceutical companies planning to build drug manufacturing plants.
Turkmenistan also held a dialogue with Hungary. The governments of the two countries reached an agreement on gas supplies during Berdimuhamedov's visit to Budapest. The Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed the opinion on the need to create a 300 kilometers long pipeline with output capacity of 30 billion cubic meters per year. The estimated cost of construction is $30b with the participation of EU countries, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan.
Meanwhile, Dushanbe and Beijing agreed to establish enterprises in Tajikistan for the production of electric vehicles and urea. The total value of signed documents exceeded $400m. Among them is a $350m agreement between Tajik OJSC "Azot" and LLC "Asia Chemical" with the Chinese "Rundjong Holding Group" for the modernization of urea production. A memorandum was also signed between LLC "Avesto Group" and Jinchuan Company for the establishment of electric vehicle production in Tajikistan worth $25m.
As an outro, let's lighten up the serious tone with… comic book characters. The first Comic Con in Central Asia took place in Astana – sneak peek.