Introductory Remarks at Business Forum: U.S.-Kazakhstan Strategic Partnership Dialogue

Robert O. Blake, Jr.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
Washington, DC
April 10, 2012

I am very pleased to join all you today for this Forum being organized and sponsored by the Kazakhstan National Export and Investment Agency, the Ministry of Industry and New Technologies and the U.S.-Kazakhstan Business Association.

This is a dynamic time in America’s relations with Kazakhstan. The United States and Kazakhstan recently celebrated two decades of friendly relations. Our predecessors in the early 1990s would have never have dreamed how far we have come as partners during that time.

One important sign of that was the meeting last month of President Obama and President Nazarbayev in Seoul during the Nuclear Security Summit. President Obama hailed President Nazarbayev’s decision to renounce nuclear weapons. The President said that “not only has that led to growth and prosperity in his own country, but he has been a model in efforts around the world to eliminate nuclear materials that could fall into the wrong hands. So I very much appreciate his leadership.”

But our partnership extends into many other others areas. Kazakhstan is helping to stabilize Afghanistan and build the regional integration that will be so critical to ensuring a sustainable economic future for Afghanistan and the broader region based on trade and private sector-led growth.

Kazakhstan’s embrace of the New Silk Road concept means there will be enhanced opportunities for American business in construction, infrastructure development, energy, services and more.

Already there has been tremendous growth in our business ties. Bilateral trade has jumped five fold since 2001 from $500 million to $2.5 billion in 2011. U.S. exports to Kazakhstan likewise are growing. Last year they increased 13% to $825 million.

Kazakhstan increasingly is a leader well beyond its own region through its Chairmanship of the OSCE in 2010 and its current role leading the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Given the wide range of bilateral cooperation between our two countries and the growing role Kazakhstan is playing outside its region, Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Kazykhanov agreed when they met in January that we should form a Strategic Partnership Dialogue, chaired by me and my good friend and colleague Deputy Foreign Minister Umarov.

Yesterday and this morning we held our first Strategic Partnership Dialogue with Kazakhstan, which was very constructive and productive.

Given our growing business ties and Kazakhstan’s efforts to develop its innovation and knowledge-based sectors, we agreed we should think about ways to include the private sectors of both of our countries in our dialogue since there is much all of you could contribute, both to inform and hopefully partner with us in these new areas.

During their recent meeting in Seoul at the Nuclear Security Summit, both President Obama and President Nazarbayev firmly stated their desire to increase commercial activity -- trade and investment – between our countries. We currently have productive partnerships in the energy sector, and we would like to see our commercial ties with Kazakhstan continue to expand in other sectors as well.

We want to engage with Kazakhstan on strategies to help diversify its economy, join the World Trade Organization, promote sustainable growth, and enhance prosperity. We want to encourage reform and suggest policies that promote trade and investment. And we want to help integrate Kazakhstan’s economy into the system of global trade on a much broader scale.

Our success in expanding bilateral trade and investment will ultimately come from the partnerships built between dynamic companies in each of our countries, and we, the U.S. government, will continue to work with you through our embassies and consulates abroad and our offices here in Washington to support those partnerships. And it is in our combined interest to create a strong center of gravity that will attract trade and investment.

This meeting is an effort to continue to make all of you part of our regular bilateral consultative mechanism and I am grateful to my Kazakhstani colleagues for agreeing to this proposal. I look forward to participating in a similar forum when we hold the next SPD in Kazakhstan.

I would encourage you to be completely candid in your comments, feedback and questions to us. I look forward to a stimulating and productive session which I believe will serve as a platform for further economic, commercial, and cultural exchange.