Kazakhstan is on the rise, a dynamic country that is poised to become a high-income economy by the end of this decade. And it is a country that also wants to play a bigger role in the region and in the world, not just an emerging market but an emerging power. That is why I want to strengthen relations between our two countries to help us both to succeed in the global race. During a recent diplomatic visit to Kazakhstan we agreed to open a new chapter in our relationship. The strategic partnership agreement that we've signed will take our relationship to a new level, a relationship based on strong economic ties, on closer cooperation on security and defense, and on increasing links between our people.
First, our economic ties. Britain is already the second largest investor in Kazakhstan, with companies like Shell and BG Group playing a leading role in the development of Kazakhstan's energy sector, as I saw for myself at Kashagan. But I believe we can go further, broadening the scope of investment and trade between our two countries to new sectors, like education, healthcare, retail, and financial services. That is why I brought a leading and diverse business delegation with me, to see the opportunities on offer and to link them up with their Kazakhstani counterparts.
We want to double bilateral trade by 2017, and on the visit we had British businesses concluded deals that will be worth more than £700 million, over $1 billion, from companies like Atkins, which has agreed on a new partnership to work on projects in Aktau and Astana, to Aberdeen-based Wood Group, which signed a new venture to provide essential equipment for the oil and gas sector.
But I do not want this trading relationship to be one way; I also want to encourage Kazakhstani companies to invest in Britain. That is why we have launched a new business visa service in Astana that streamlines and accelerates the process for leading Kazakhstani companies.
We also want to increase our cooperation on defense and foreign affairs. We have also discussed how we can work together on a range of foreign policy issues, especially on Afghanistan and Iran.
I believe that the President's moral authority, as a country that has prospered from giving up nuclear weapons, sets a clear example to other governments of the benefits of being nuclear weapons free.
Finally we have also discussed how we can strengthen ties between our people. I paid a visit to Nazarbayev University and visited the engineering faculty established by UCL. As Kazakhstan seeks to meet its target of one in five universities offering double degree programs with foreign universities, I believe there are real opportunities for British universities to offer higher educational, vocational training and English-language training.
And we also want to attract the brightest and best students to come to Britain. That is why we agreed to explore how we can extend the Bolashak Program, which has already seen more than 3,000 Kazakhstanis study in the UK to industry attachments. Bolashak means future, and I believe that is what our relationship is all about, a future based on closer cooperation right across the breadth of our partnership. Kazakhstan has an exciting future ahead of it, and Britain wants to be a major part of that future.