MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Program is holding its 9th Ministerial Conference (MC) as member countries take stock of a partnership that is laying the groundwork for a truly integrated and globally connected region.

High on the agenda will be the entry of Pakistan and Turkmenistan, which would take the group's membership to 10. As it prepares to mark a decade of ministerial cooperation, CAREC can boast of more than $13 billion in investments that have contributed to sustainable economic growth and improved living standards across Central Asia.

CAREC provides the finance and ideas - notably in the areas of energy, trade, and transportation - leading to accelerated economic growth and closer cooperation among countries in the region.

The inclusion of Pakistan and Turkmenistan promises to extend CAREC's reach to the Arabian Sea and beyond, improving Central Asia's competitiveness in world markets as a pivotal crossroad between East and South Asia, Europe, and the Russian Federation.

"CAREC continues to promote regional connectivity and instill a stronger mindset to look beyond national interests," said Juan Miranda, Asian Development Bank (ADB) Director General for Central and West Asia Department. "Through deeds rather than words, CAREC is proving to be the master key that unlocks Central Asia's vast economic potential."

ADB has served as CAREC's Secretariat since 2000.

CAREC was founded in 1997 as 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 - ADB, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Monetary Fund, Islamic Development Bank, United Nations Development Programme, and World Bank - with a mandate to help the region realize its economic potential and connect with neighboring and international markets.

The regional body has provided $10.4 billion in transportation investments, $219 million for trade facilitation, and $2.5 billion for energy projects since 2001.

Afghanistan will chair the conference, which will be held in Cebu, Philippines on 31 October - 2 November 2010. At the end of the conference, a Ministerial Retreat will be held for the first time where discussions will focus on developing a vision to expand CAREC's partnership for the second decade of ministerial collaboration.

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