URUMQI, XINJIANG UAR, PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA - Business leaders from all over Central Asia will gather in a two-day forum here to discuss opportunities for encouraging partnerships between private and public sectors in support of regional cooperation initiatives.

The meeting, the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation - Business Development Forum (CAREC-BDF), is being held today and tomorrow, two days prior to the CAREC Ministerial Conference which will also be held here. The CAREC - BDF is designed to produce recommendations that the Ministers can consider in pursuing efforts to promote investments and economic growth in Central Asia.

A similar gathering of the region's business leaders was held in Bishkek in the Kyrgyz Republic in November 2005 and resulted in a call for an enhanced representation of the private sector in regional cooperation meetings. The CAREC-BDF is designed to be one of the mechanisms in answering this call, recognizing the importance of the private sector's role and insights in regional cooperation efforts and giving it the proper forum. The CAREC BDF is also expected to provide networking opportunities for business players and generate greater awareness of investment opportunities the region has to offer.

Five priority sectors will be tackled in separate discussion groups during the forum - energy, mining, agribusiness, finance sector; and tourism. Each discussion group will discuss pertinent developments in the sector, and identify possible steps that may be taken through regional cooperation.

The CAREC-BDF is organized by the is organized by the Ministry of Commerce of the PRC, ADB, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, in cooperation with the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce.

About CAREC:

The CAREC Program, initiated by the ADB in 1997, aims to improve living standards and to reduce poverty in CAREC countries through more efficient and effective regional economic cooperation. To date, the Program has focused on financing infrastructure projects and improving the region's policy environment in the priority areas of transportation, energy, trade policy and facilitation, areas critical in improving the region's economic performance. The Program includes eight countries in the Central Asian region - Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, PRC (focusing on Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region), Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

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