Central Asian Governments Endorse Plans to Boost Integration, Trade

ULAANBAATAR, MONGOLIA - Ministers at the 8th Ministerial Conference on Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) today endorsed two major plans to advance cooperation in the region's transport, trade and energy sectors.

"CAREC is at work across the region building transport and energy infrastructure, simplifying border and trade arrangements, undertaking research on regional issues, and building networks in support of cooperation," ministers said in a joint statement at the conclusion of the conference. "This work is opening new economic opportunities for millions of our citizens."

Endorsement of the Energy Action Plan Framework and the Program Results Framework further strengthens CAREC's mission to develop through cooperation, with the objectives of increased economic growth and poverty reduction, expanded and diversified trade, and strengthened capacity for regional cooperation and integration.

The energy action plan focuses on bolstering regional cooperation to support energy security and investments for regional and export opportunities. The results framework will help track the progress of CAREC's investments and policy programs.

Founded in 1997, CAREC is a partnership of eight countries - Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, the People's Republic of China, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan - and six multilateral institutions: the Asian Development Bank (ADB), European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Monetary Fund, Islamic Development Bank, United Nations Development Programme and World Bank. ADB has served as CARECSecretariat since 2000.

The Program's multilateral partners expect to approve loans and grants of almost $4 billion in 2009 in the priority sectors of transport, energy and trade.

In a keynote address opening the Ministerial Meeting, ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda said the global economic downturn had underscored the value of the regional cooperation embodied by CAREC.

"In this difficult period, the CAREC Program has maintained its focus and is delivering on its goals through cooperation," Mr. Kuroda said. "Crisis creates opportunity, and, working together, CAREC members can use this challenge to strengthen partnership and expand collaboration."

Mr. Kuroda said that with expanded cooperation, CAREC countries are poised to become a key trade and energy zone that links Asia, Europe and the Middle East.