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Kazakhstan 2014 | ECONOMY | FOCUS: EURASIAN ECONOMIC COMMUNITY

In an effort to deepen political and economic ties among its neighbors, many CIS countries have jumped at the chance to create a political and economic community that will hopefully one day rival such organizations as the EU.

The Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC) is an international economic organization established in October 2000. The five member states are Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, with the latter joining in 2005. As well, the group also has three observer countries, namely Moldavia, Ukraine, and Armenia. The main goals of the EurAsEC are to form a common external customs border, develop mutual external economic policy, tariffs, and prices, as well as foster a common market between the nations. It was created in compliance with UN and international principles and adapted from the European Community, the World Trade Organization (WTO), and other international norms.

The EurAsEC has set out its overall goals for implementation. In the medium term, the organization has identified four fields that need special attention. The first of these is in transport. The EurAsEC is looking to resolve the question of a unified tariff system for exports, increase the volume of products transported between member states, simplify customs procedures, and promote transnational transport and cooperation. The second area of focus is in regard to energy. The EurAsEC wishes to enhance the use of hydroelectricity in the Central Asian region in an effort to solve the dual problem of water and electricity shortages. The next area targeted by the group is that of workforce migration. The Community wants to create an effective regulation and control system for the migration of workers, while also protecting them socially. It also wants to combat issues related to crime and migrant workforces, and resolve any tax payment problems that some migrants and their employers are faced with. The final sector that the EurAsEC wishes to address is that of agriculture. One of the main focuses over the next few years for the member states will be establishing a common agricultural market within the EurAsEC area. It is also aiming to reduce the transportation and storage costs related to agriculture. In addition to cutting costs, the Community wants to increase farmers' access to financial tools through the introduction of insurance, banks, leasing, and possibly the capital markets.

One of the most significant actions by the EurAsEC has been the establishment of a Customs Union. It has long been the dream of member states to create such a union, and on January 1, 2010, the ball got rolling with Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus getting on board with the plan. Over five years, each country will slowly remove tariffs on products until a common economic space and a single market for goods, investment, and labor is established. The Customs Union is helping to boost business in Kazakhstan as well as the region as a whole. “The importance of the Customs Union established by Kazakhstan, Russia, and Belarus is growing. It strengthens the Kazakhstani economy, while also opening up a large market to investors. This regional organization is gaining an increasing authority in the arena of international relations," Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, explained to TBY. For Kazakhstan in particular, the Union will help to facilitate trade among other member states and deepen integration through the elimination of customs posts between Russia and Kazakhstan. It will also reduce the cost of transportation due to the simplified nature of customs procedures. Both Kazakhstan and Russia are working hard to meet the barrier- and tariff-free goal for traders, which will greatly reduce the costs associated with transporting goods to other countries.