Monochrome: Meetings

Date: May 2018

Meeting 1: As expected, the main topic of conversation at the meeting between Mirziyoyevand Trump was about Afghanistan, where tensions have recently increased. The US and Uzbekistan are planning to conclude a five-year military cooperation programme, which will begin with transport and the transit of military cargo. In addition, General Electric will modernise a Tashkent power station, Exxon Mobil will invest in the Fergana refinery, and Amazon has plans to enter the Uzbek market. A firm Tramp handshake did not happen, but it seems that the countries’ partnership is going from strength to strength.

Meeting 2: President Lukashenko of Belarusspent three days in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. During his visit, he managed to plant trees, launch a tractor plant, wear a traditional Tajik chapanrobe, and treat Tajikistan’s President Rahmon to some Belarusian chocolate. Tajikistan will increase exports of cotton and fruit to Belarus, and exports of agricultural machinery to Afghanistan. There are also plans to establish a joint venture for milk and dairy production in Tajikistan.

Meeting 3: Sochi hosted a meeting of the EAEC member countries. Also in attendance this time was the president of Moldova, which has been granted the status of “observer” in the EAEC. One particularly notable speech came from the Belarusian president, who was dissatisfied with the fact that politics interferes with trade and that “we are getting distanced from each other”. Kazakhstan’s President Nazarbayev proposed the construction of a “Eurasia” shipping channel between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.

Meeting 4: Iran has signed a three-year agreement on a free trade zone with the EAEC after meetings at the Astana Economic Forum’s “Global Challenges Summit”. The agreement’s terms relate to reductions in customs duties. The list for the EAEC member countries includes meat products, confectionery, cosmetics, electronics and mechanical equipment. The Iranian side will receive tariff preferences for importing vegetables, fruit, dried fruit and construction materials to the EAEC’s territory.

Meeting 5: President Nazarbayev met with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, thanking him for his participation in the Global Challenges Summit. Nazarbayev highlighted the problem of the uncontrolled emergence of cryptocurrencies, with Wozniak comparing the uniqueness and value of cryptocurrency with wireless communication. The forum’s extremely interesting speeches included the American physicist Michio Kaku predicting that people may buy transplant organs in stores, learn to teleport, and create a brain the size of a planet.

Meeting 6: Chris Campbell-Holt, Registrar and Chief Executive of the AIFC Court, held a meeting with investors at the Astana forum, noting that the arbitration court intends to compete in global venues. Initially, the court has determined that the cost of initiating the arbitration process will start at USD 1000, compared to the tens of thousands of dollars required in other courts. The AIFC Court is an independent jurisdiction based on the principles of English law, with the participation of international judges.

Meeting 7: Discussions were held at a meeting between Uzbekistan’s Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov and the German-Uzbek Business Council. A special 16-hectare free trade zone specifically for German companies may be established in Uzbekistan based around the Algorithm plant in Tashkent. All necessary engineering communications have already been brought up to the free trade zone and a transport infrastructure has been created.

Meeting 8: Remember the accident at the Bishkek thermal power station, which cost Sapar Isakov his chair? Yesterday the parliament held a meeting to discuss the findings of the investigation commission established to look into the causes of the accident. The papers will now go to the public prosecutor’s office. One of the proposals of the commission, for example, is that parliament should henceforth review loan agreements and take the opinion of the relevant committees into account.

Meeting 9: Korean KNOC, British BP and Azerbaijani SOCAR may start geological explorations in Uzbekistan after the relevant documents were signed at meetings with the state corporation Uzbekneftegaz. KNOC was previously active in Uzbekistan, and even conducted explorations for gas fields at the bottom of the Aral Sea; however, in 2015 the corporation decided to withdraw from projects in Uzbekistan. This may now change.

Meeting 10: A rather unexpected meeting took place in Sochi earlier this month. Uzbek war veterans, whom the Uzbek authorities had planned to send to Kislovodsk, mistakenly arrived in the famous Sochi resort to honour the 73rd anniversary of the USSR's victory over Nazi Germany. The guests were taken around the city for an entire day, before being put on a train to Kislovodsk. This was all done at the expense of the Sochi City Council, to whom we are extremely grateful!

A couple more things to note: Uzbekistan will implement mobile number portability before the end of this year, and an important decree on the development of e-commerce has been adopted, according to which electronic cheques and receipts will now finally have the same legal force as their paper-based equivalents.

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