Having embarked on several foreign visits to Asian trade partners in recent years, President Nazarbayev has underlined his commitment to global stability. “We will continue with our balanced foreign policy, interacting not only with the West, but also with Asian countries,” he told TBY in an interview. While links with China remain strong, President Nazarbayev has paid visits to Vietnam, Indonesia, and South Korea over the last two years. In Vietnam in October 2011, the Kazakh-Vietnamese business forum was held and several bilateral agreements were signed into effect. It is hoped that efforts will boost trade turnover, which had halved in 2010 from $88.4 million in 2009. The state visit to Indonesia also ended positively, with agreements signed between the foreign ministries of both countries, and an outline drafted for the future of trade development. According to deals signed during the visit, Kazakhstan is set to deliver 300,000 tons of wheat to Indonesia in 2012. The President’s trip to South Korea also lead to several deals made at the state level, including construction of the Balkhash thermal plant and Phase II of the integrated gas treatment and chemicals production complex in Atyrau, worth $6.3 billion.
It is China, however, that remains Kazakhstan’s number one Asian trade partner, accounting for 40% of all of Kazakhstan’s non-commodity exports together with Russia. Indeed, the establishment of the Khorgos-Eastern Gate special economic zone (SEZ) in 2011 is seen as a good complement to the development of the Western Europe-Western China highway, currently taking shape across Eurasia, and through Kazakhstan. The SEZ is designed as a storage and transport facility close to the Chinese border, and is also a base for food production, and the manufacturing of leather and textiles, non-metal and mineral products, chemicals, and finished metal products.
On the diplomatic front, Kazakhstan has been active in 2012 as the chair of both the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), an intergovernmental alliance between Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. Kazakhstan is also a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), formerly the “Shanghai Five,” founded by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan, and later joined by Uzbekistan. The SCO acts as an intergovernmental mutual-security organization and was founded in 2001, with Kazakhstan recently having finished its stint as president. Almaty is also the base of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), which is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2012. CICA is “considered today by the international community as a unique inter-governmental platform for dialogue and consultation,” President Nazarbayev told TBY. “The inclusion of the CICA in working groups under the auspices of the UN and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe [OSCE] is evidence of the importance of this forum in the world,” he continued.
In addition to also having recently completed its term as President of the OSCE, Kazakhstan’s capital Astana has been proclaimed 2012’s culture capital under the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States.
As the Customs Union evolves into the Eurasian Economic Union and gears up to welcome other CIS states, Kazakhstan’s location between East and West is set to boost trade links across the board, solidifying the country’s ties to the East. “Kazakhstan’s foreign policy, as it always has, will continue to develop balanced relations with other countries and regions,” President Nazarbayev concluded.
© The Business Year