This is a special opportunity to be with you all today, here in Baku, on the 10th anniversary of Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation – CAREC -- , an exceptional organization which has accomplished a lot during its first ten years of operation.
Today is the beginning of one of the United States most important holidays –Thanksgiving. It is a holiday that originated when the first settlers came to North America and were able to celebrate a bountiful harvest. The success of the harvest was possible because of the cooperation between the settlers and the native Americans. This ministerial conference is a opportunity for me to share this American tradition of giving thanks.
I would like to give my thanks to the Asian Development Bank and all of the members of CAREC for the wonderful work you have done and continue to do in Central Asia in the region since CAREC’s first ministerial in 2002. Central Asia and its neighboring countries lie at the crossroads of some of the most dynamic economies in the world. Every day, new avenues for trade and access to world markets are opening up, reinvigorating the region’s rich history in trade and commerce.
Like CAREC, the United States believes increased cooperation in this region will produce life improving gains for the people of Central Asia and neighboring countries. Through the elimination of trade barriers, more efficient development and use of water and energy resources, improved transit and transportation corridors, and other forms of regional cooperation, per capita incomes in Central Asia could more than double over the next decade.
Like CAREC, we also believe the price of noncooperation in this region is too steep to ignore. Lost economic opportunities and difficult access to markets almost certainly translate into poor employment prospects and slow progress in reducing poverty. Without regional economic cooperation, public health standards suffer, natural disasters are exacerbated through a lack of joint preparedness and mitigation, and the threat of insecurity and conflict hinder progress region-wide. But by wisely promoting regional cooperation in the key areas of transport, trade facilitation, trade policy, and energy, CAREC is playing an invaluable role in helping Central Asia and its neighbors realize the region’s enormous potential.
Through 17 billion dollars invested in over 120 CAREC programs, this partnership has truly become one of the region’s leaders in promoting regional cooperation. And the program's new ten-year strategy—CAREC 2020—is poised to become a valuable road map for the region’s future. Secretary Clinton embraced this concept of regional economic cooperation in her remarks in Chennai India, and again at the UN General Assembly. She called this vision “the new silk road.”
This vision is about trade liberalization and streamlined customs procedures. It is about eliminating out-dated trade policies and creating a new regional reality defined by cross-border collaboration and trade. The support of partnerships like CAREC and the private sector are critical in developing the markets underpinning this New Silk Road. Through private enterprise and CAREC’s corridors program, cotton and other materials from Central Asia can work their way southward across Afghanistan to factories in South Asia . There they can create fabric and garments, which can then be sent to markets around the world.
Central Asia can also leverage surplus energy supplies to feed hungry energy markets in South Asia, where new energy resources are needed to power economic growth. You have accomplished an incredible amount in CAREC’s first 10 years, so let me be the first to congratulate you and wish you a happy anniversary.
With CAREC 2020 as the action plan, and the New Silk Road as the vision, there is much more we can do together to realize our shared vision of a connected, competitive, and prosperous region. Now, more than ever, is the time for action.
I look forward to working with all of you in the weeks, months, and years ahead as the CAREC Program continues its invaluable work, and as we together explore avenues for constructive collaboration in building the New Silk Road.