BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - Eight countries today adopted strategy documents outlining ambitious plans to deepen regional economic cooperation in transport, trade facilitation, trade policy, and energy in Central Asia and neighboring states.
The plans were agreed at the 7th Ministerial Conference of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Program. Ministers and senior officials from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, People's Republic of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan attended the conference. Representatives of the Program's six multilateral partners also participated.
"Together, these documents and related work plans for CAREC sector committees present an ambitious but practical agenda for our Program," Ministers said in a joint statement. "We pledge our commitment to work together to execute these plans in cooperation with our multilateral partners."
The Implementation Action Plan for the Transport and Trade Facilitation Strategy outlines $21 billion of investments to upgrade six CAREC transport and trade corridors to international standard by 2017.
"This will greatly strengthen the competitiveness of CAREC economies and enable a sharp expansion of trade - both within our region and beyond," Ministers said. "By combining transport investments with trade facilitation initiatives we will create an efficient multimodal transport and trade system, making Central Asia, once again, a vibrant land bridge for Eurasia."
The Trade Policy Strategic Action Plan will support CAREC countries' efforts to join the World Trade Organization. The Action Plan will enable trade and improve the investment climate across Central Asia by simplifying and liberalizing regimes.
The Strategy for Regional Cooperation in the Energy Sector will promote cooperation to expand energy trade and improve energy efficiency and security. "Concerted initiatives to develop our energy resources; to improve the efficiency of electricity production, distribution, and use; and to introduce clean energy technologies, will spur economic growth and poverty reduction," Ministers said.
"Today we can see more clearly the road ahead for the CAREC Program. These documents will set in motion actions with the potential to dramatically expand and improve Central Asia's regional cooperation and integration," ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda said in a keynote address to the conference. "It is time to commit ourselves to these actions and to move rapidly into implementation."
CAREC is an alliance of the eight participating countries and six multilateral institutions - the Asian Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Monetary Fund, Islamic Development Bank, United Nations Development Programme, and the World Bank.
About $2.4 billion of regional investments in CAREC's priority areas of transport, energy, and trade are expected in 2008.
Further information about the CAREC Program can be found at http://www.adb.org/carec.