Uzbekistan has continued to champion trade and security across Central Asia and markets beyond, organising a high-level summit last week in Tashkent. Along with presidents, prime ministers, ministers and international organisation heads, IRU was at the summit to reinforce the importance of trade facilitation and TIR.
The two-day event, “Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity, Challenges and Opportunities”, was opened by Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, followed by speeches from Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Ministers from Central and South Asian states, the European Union, United States, China and the Middle East all underlined the importance of regional security and economic and cultural integration, with special emphasis on inter-regional connectivity.
President Shavkat Mirziyoyev stressed how important it is to create favourable conditions for mutual growth and to find efficient measures to support this growth, such as transit digitalisation to make trade and border crossings more efficient.
Prime Minister Imran Khan concurred and noted in particular that instruments such as TIR and the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement contribute to better connectivity in Central Asia. All participants underlined the importance of trust in the region for economic stability.
Uzbekistan and Pakistan inked a strategic partnership agreement at the event, targeting a five-fold increase in bilateral trade volumes. The two countries signed other technical agreements to strengthen cooperation in areas including pre-arrival information of goods, transit trade, and simplifying visa procedures for business.
A dedicated panel session on trade and development, “Central and South Asia: Better Regional Connectivity for Sustainable Growth”, focused on soft barriers to trade and bottlenecks at border crossings in the context of broader regional integration in transport, energy, digital connectivity and mobility of people.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Investments and Foreign Trade Sardor Umurzakov opened the panel, evoking the experience of an Uzbek road transport operator who successfully connected Uzbekistan to Pakistan in just 48 hours. This remarkable time saving was made possible thanks to TIR, which is gaining a foothold in relatively new TIR countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan.
IRU, invited to participate in the summit along with other major international organisations, underscores the important role that Uzbekistan plays in the region by championing best practices in transit facilitation, such as digitalisation of transit under TIR and the implementation of Green Lanes for secure transport and more efficient border crossings.
The summit demonstrates a strong commitment of all states, financial institutions and international organisations on cooperation and inter-regional trade facilitation in order to realise the full potential of transport connectivity initiatives.