A roundtable on the reforms in Uzbekistan and the integration processes in Central Asia took place on the 20th of February at the European Institute for Asian Studies in Brussels.
A closed-door event was attended by representatives of European Union institutions, Brussels based think tanks and other organizations based in Europe’s capital. European-Uzbekistan Association for Economic Cooperation was also part of the event. The official Uzbekistan delegation was headed by Mr. Obid Khakimov the director of Center for Economic Research & Reforms (CERR), a think-tank under the Presidential Administration of the Republic of Uzbekistan, which has been recently rated one of the top 10 best think tanks in Cantal Asia, by the University of Pennsylvania’s Global Go To Think Tank Index Report for 2019.
One of the key messages that was presented at the event in Brussels, is that Uzbekistan is always looking after it’s economic interests and to minimize risks in the country’s considerations about joining any international economic unions, therefore a detailed and throw assessment of those risks plays a key role in decisions of joining any international economic organizations, such as EEU or WTO. The country’s plans to review the possibility of joining the Eurasian Economic Union have been received with caution especially in the United States & in Europe, with the US secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross, going as far as saying that this may affect Uzbekistan’s prospects of joining the WTO at an event Washington D.C. in late 2019.
The director of Uzbekistan’s leading think tank in his introductory remarks in Brussels also mentioned that Uzbekistan plans to adapt approximately 3000 new international standards in various fields throughout the course of 2020, in order to provide ground for country’s expedited integration into the world economy. That said, a focus was also made on the importance that Uzbekistan puts on the necessity to protect those investors who have already made investments into the country. Any assessment of joining WTO and/on the Eurasian Economic Union would take this matter into account.
The European Union is currently also negotiating a new cooperation agreement with Uzbekistan, which includes a substantial trade part, which may grant significant relief for Uzbekistan’s exported goods to enter the EU common market. Therefore, clarification of the country’s plans to join EEU, which would offer Uzbekistan closer economic integration opportunities with countries such as Russian & Kazakhstan is being followed very closely in Brussels.