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Diplomacy in Action

Broadening Cooperation Between the United States and Kyrgystan


Remarks
Robert O. Blake, Jr.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
Kyrgyz-North American Business Council
New York City
September 21, 2009

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Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for inviting me to deliver opening remarks at this launch of the Kyrgyz-North America Trade Council. I’m honored to be here at such an important time in U.S.-Kyrgyz relations.

Before I proceed, I’d like to acknowledge some distinguished guests and express my sincere appreciation for their presence. Prime Minister, Mr. Igor Chudinov, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Kadyrbek Sarbaev, Minister of Finance, Mr. Marat Sultanov, Director of the State Agency for Ecology, Mr. Arstanbek Davletkeldiev, Ambassador of the Kyrgyz Republic to the United States, Zamira Sydykova, and, Marc David Miller, Executive Director of the Kyrgyz-North America Trade Council.

Mr. Prime Minister, I would also like to express my appreciation for the visit of President Bakiyev to the Transit Center at Manas on September 11 of this year. His presence there on that day speaks volumes about the lasting friendship that endures between our two nations. He is welcome back anytime. As guests in your country we are grateful to have such a gracious host.

Mr. Prime Minister, you also played an important role in hosting the visit in July of a U.S. delegation headed by our Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, William Burns. That visit marked an important part of our joint efforts to raise relations between the .S. and Kyrgyzstan to a new level. We agreed during those meetings to regularize our high-level engagement and thereby achieve systematic progress on a variety of issues across the full spectrum of our relationship. We see many opportunities to broaden cooperation between the United States and Kyrgystan.

In Afghanistan we share a common interest in helping to stabilize that important country.
The Joint Statement Concerning Afghanistan issued by Presidents Obama and Medvedev on July 6 noted “the importance of stepping up the international community's efforts to help stabilize that country and promote the democratic process and economic growth there.”

The U.S. sincerely appreciates the Kyrgyz contribution to this international effort to stabilize Afghanistan. Kyrgystan should be proud of the new Manas Transit Center that will facilitate the delivery of cargo to Afghanistan.

But there’s much more to our relationship than the Manas Transit Center. In particular, I expect that trade would be of greatest interest to today’s audience

Trade

In 2008, Kyrgyz exports to the U.S. totaled $2.5 million of products including: antimony, mercury, rare-earth metals, and chemical products.

That same year, Kyrgyz imports from the U.S. totaled $44.3 million of products including: grain, medicine and medical equipment, vegetable oil, paper, rice, machinery, agricultural equipment, and meat.

These figures may be modest. We hope we can do much more. That’s why we created the Annual Bilateral Consultations I alluded to earlier. By working with you through that mechanism and through our regional Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, we hope to increase trade between our two nations.

Another way to increase trade is through economic reform. We have been busy on that front too.

Economic Reform

In 2008, an estimated $8.3 million of U.S. foreign assistance to Kyrgyzstan was allocated to economic growth programs. That amount will increase in 2009 and will include a $20 million Joint Economic Development Fund to promote reform and expand trade. In general, U.S. programs seek to achieve the following goals:
Increase the institutional capacity of the government, including the Ministry of Finance;

Encourage private sector competitiveness and an open business environment;
Facilitate Kyrgyz participation in regional electricity and energy markets;
Expand access to credit including micro-credit to small businesses.

U.S. foreign assistance programs are reducing the regulatory red tape faced by businesses, streamlining tax collection, making it easier to trade across borders, and helping Kyrgyz business leaders learn how to do business in the U.S.

For example, over the past four years, USAID has worked with the Kyrgyz government to develop a vibrant, modern real estate market. This effort has introduced market mechanisms in the management of state-owned agricultural land and improved the zoning of urban land. As any businessman knows, a transparent, functioning real estate market is critical for economic development.

A USAID project titled Economic Reform to Enhance Competitiveness (EREC) affords another good example. In that project, the Kyrgyz Ministry of Finance and Methodological Council on Accounting joined with USAID to help Kyrgyzstan transition to International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) by 2011.

The U. S. Department of Commerce also has been active. It and the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek teamed up over the last three years to conduct five, "Doing Business with the USA" seminars that reached over 300 Kyrgyz companies.

The Department of Commerce also coordinated three trade missions to the United States in order to facilitate partnerships for Kyrgyz companies with their U.S. counterparts. And, this October we will host the Trade and Investment Framework talks in Washington.

But there’s more to economic reform than dollars and cents. Reform of Kyrgyzstan’s democratic process, progress on rule of law and fioghting corruption also will enhance Kyrgystan’s economic prospects. We will to pursue these objectives in partnership with Kyrgyzstan in our Annual Bilateral Consultations.

In sum, ladies and gentlemen, we are optimistic about the future of relations between the United States and Kyrgystan. There is much work to be done to seize the opportunities I have outlined. We hope we can count on the advice and help of all of you as we look to a brighter future of enhanced bilateral engagement to our mutual benefit. Thank you.



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