TBY talks to the Rt Hon Sir Alan Duncan MP, Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom, on the importance of Kazakhstan for the UK as a strategic partner in Central Asia and the variety of ventures that are improving economic cooperation between the two.

Rt Hon Sir Alan Duncan
The Rt Hon Sir Alan Duncan was appointed Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in July 2016. In 1979 he obtained his degree in politics and economics from St John’s College, and he won a Kennedy Scholarship at Harvard University. Duncan worked with Shell International between 1979 and 1981, and then as an oil trader for Marc Rich and Co from 1982 to 1988. Between 1988 and 1992, he was an independent consultant and adviser to foreign governments, specialising in oil supplies, shipping, and refining. In 1989, he set up the independent Harcourt Consultants to advise on oil and gas matters. He previously served as Minister of State for International Development from 2010 to 2014.

How would you assess the evolution of bilateral relations between the UK and Kazakhstan and the growing importance of Kazakhstan for the UK as a strategic partner in Central Asia?

We have a great relationship with Kazakhstan that continues to strengthen. This is underlined by high-level visits, such as the UK Prime Minister's visit to Kazakhstan in 2013, which kick-started our annual strategic dialog, and President Nazarbayev's visit to the UK in 2015. Each year ministers meet to develop our relationships across a broad range of issues.

During the visit of former Minister of Foreign Affairs Yerlan Idrissov to London in late 2016, you both expressed your intentions to further develop relations in all areas of bilateral relations. What measures are being taken in order to strengthen diplomatic ties and expand economic cooperation?

Our annual dialogs have identified some great ways to develop our cooperation. On diplomatic ties, as well as exploring opportunities for the UK and Kazakhstan, the dialog was a chance for us to welcome Kazakhstan to the UN Security Council. We look forward to working together to address the security challenges the world is facing in places like Syria, South Sudan, and Yemen. We also welcome the opportunity Kazakhstan now has to contribute further to the UN's approach to conflict prevention, peace, and development. On economic cooperation, we identified important projects across a range of sectors. We will work together via the UK-Kazakhstan Intergovernmental Commission to develop our mutual economic cooperation. The UK's Department for International Trade (DIT) has three major high value campaigns including in oil, gas, and mining—areas where UK companies have the skills and experience to partner with their Kazakhstani counterparts. I am delighted that Anglo-Dutch company Shell continues to be a major foreign investor in Kazakhstan as a major shareholder in the Kashagan and Karachaganak oilfields. In the financial and professional services sector, UK companies are increasingly taking opportunities to support Kazakhstan's ambitious reform program. TheCityUK, the trade association representing London's financial sector, provides legal advice and guidance to the new Astana International Financial Centre. I am also pleased to see progress that will see more equipment manufactured to international standards in Kazakhstan, with a joint task force formed to help reach this target. The task force will develop new joint UK-Kazakhstani business ventures and further improve our economic cooperation.

In which areas of the economy do you see the highest potential for trade and cooperation between the UK and Kazakhstan?

We have great ambitions to increase trade and cooperation between the UK and Kazakhstan. We hope to achieve GBP420 million of export value wins from Expo Astana 2017. The extractive industries—oil and gas and mining—are key sectors and will be a core part of this; however, there are also increasingly new opportunities emerging. The establishment of the Astana International Financial Centre, to which the UK gave its strong support, gives the UK's financial and professional services sector a chance to increase trade and investment. I am also particularly excited to see how we can use our presence at Expo as a springboard to explore new sectors such as agriculture and smart cities.

What lessons and practices can the UK bring to Kazakhstan's green energy sector, and how do you foresee the event boosting Astana and Kazakhstan's economy?

Our commitment to green energy solutions is something we hope will build momentum across our international partners, including Kazakhstan. Our pavilion at Expo 2017 will promote the UK's creativity, innovation, and openness to tackling the world's energy challenges to a global audience. We are eager to share our experiences on energy diversification with the Kazakhstani government, businesses, and people, and believe there is further scope to work together. Over 100 countries and international organizations are expected to attend the Expo and this unique international attention will play a part in boosting the whole economy.