Sunday, April 14, 2024

Kazakhstan Seeks a Broader Global Role: Foreign Policy, Trade, Digitalization, and Green Energy Initiatives

Astana, Kazakhstan – Despite global geopolitical tensions, Kazakhstan pursues a multi-vector foreign policy, maintaining good relations with all its neighbors, including Russia and China, as well as with the European Union and the United States, Kazakhstan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Roman Vassilenko said in Astana on October 23. The minister emphasized that Kazakhstan wants to be a bridge between Asia and Europe, strengthening cooperation between East and West.

“As outlined by President (Kassym-Jomart) Tokayev, Kazakhstan advocates for barrier-free trade and investment cooperation as part of our firm belief that economic interdependence serves as the bedrock of a more peaceful and prosperous world,” he told a meeting with foreign journalists two days before Kazakhstan celebrated Republic Day – a day steeped in historical importance for the Central Asian state, marking the defining moment in 1990 when Kazakhstan declared its sovereignty from the Soviet Union. 

“In this regard, Kazakhstan does not support sanction confrontations, as they detrimentally affect the global atmosphere of international relations and hinder the progress of trade and economic collaboration among nations,” Vassilenko said, reminding that Tokayev has also recognized the destructive threat of nuclear weapons, calling for a world free of nuclear weapons.

Outlining Kazakhstan’s success in recent years, Vassilenko argued that his country is Central Asia’s foremost economy. “Consistent economic growth has catapulted our nation to an upper middle-income status, marked by relatively high living standards. Our significant advancements in health, education, and overall well-being underscore our progress.

Astana, our capital, epitomizes our journey of modernization — a harmonious blend of contemporary architecture and the legacy of our ancestors,” Vassilenko said.

“On the international stage, our diplomatic endeavors have shaped a unique identity for Kazakhstan. From our resolute stance on nuclear disarmament to building bridges through multilateral forums, Kazakhstan has positioned itself as a unifying mediator between the East and West,” Kazakhstan’s Deputy Foreign Minister said.

WHO holds a major regional conference and celebration in Astana

Speaking of Kazakhstan’s international obligations and cooperation, Astana hosted the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) Global Conference on Primary Health Care on October 23-26. A large-scale celebration of Kazakhstan’s pioneering role in establishing the European and global framework for primary health care marked Day One of the Astana meetings, with WHO and senior regional government speakers commemorating the 45th anniversary of the Alma-Ata and the 5th anniversary of the Astana declarations on primary health care. 

Furthermore, the 73rd session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe was also held in Astana.

Kazakhstan’s partnership with the WHO addresses numerous regional health challenges, highlighting the significance of collaborative initiatives in public health.

Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge all delivered remarks on October 23.

In his opening remarks, Tokayev stressed the role of the primary healthcare system in preventing and identifying the spread of infectious diseases worldwide. “As the COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us, primary health care also plays a critical role in the early identification of pandemics and in responding to unforeseen challenges. Primary healthcare organizations have shown resilience and an ability to adapt quickly. Our healthcare systems must remain alert. I take this opportunity to thank all medical workers and appreciate the contribution to humanity’s fight against COVID-19,” Tokayev said.

Tackling climate change

Amid the exacerbating impacts of climate change, Tokayev has highlighted the imperative for transformative actions to safeguard the environment, underscoring the importance of green job investments, Vassilenko said. He added that the Kazakh President has accentuated Kazakhstan’s preparedness to serve as a regional hub for food supply, contributing to alleviating the global food crisis.

“These commitments and initiatives demonstrate our desire to address global challenges and foster international cooperation. I hope you agree that their implementation would greatly benefit the world,” Vassilenko said. 

He stressed that the transformation of Kazakhstan through comprehensive reforms has been a key priority for the country’s leadership over the past few years.

“Specifically, Kazakhstan has achieved a substantial progress in its democratization journey, exemplified by the implementation of wide-ranging political reforms, including constitutional amendments introduced through last year’s national referendum,” Vassilenko argued. “In his latest State of the Nation Address on September 1, President Tokayev shifted focus to economic reforms with the aim of promoting fairness, inclusiveness, and pragmatism. He outlined objectives to diversify the economy, strengthening the industrial framework and targeting stable economic growth of 6-7 percent,” Kazakhstan’s Deputy Foreign Minister added.

Emphasis on investments in infrastructure and logistics

To enhance market efficiency, Kazakhstan’s economic agenda includes privatization and stock market listing of several state companies, particularly in non-core sectors. In addition, foreign and domestic investors working in processing industries could soon be granted a three-year tax exemption, he said, noting that Kazakhstan aspires to maintain its leading position in Central Asia for attracting foreign investment, representing more than 60% of the region’s total FDI. In 2022, we secured approximately $28 billion in FDI, marking a historic high for the last decade.

“We are placing significant emphasis on investments in infrastructure and logistics. Around 80% of the land-based cargo traffic taking place between Europe and Asia passes through Kazakhstan,” he said.

The Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister stressed that upgrading and fine-tuning the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route, more commonly known as the Middle Corridor, is among the key priorities of Kazakhstan, together with that of the North-South corridor, including the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railway.

 In the same vein, Kazakhstan is stepping up its efforts to facilitate the transit of goods through the construction of Dostyk-Moiynty, Bakhty-Ayagoz, and Darbaza-Maktaaral railroads.

Focus on digitalization

Asked about the digitization of the economy, Vassilenko told Global Strat View Kazakhstan is intensifying efforts to become a strategic IT hub, serving as a platform for supplying computing power internationally.

He noted that Astana Hub was established in Astana to promote IT companies and startups. “In terms of specific examples, I would highlight a recent agreement with Mastercard, achieved during President Tokayev’s visit to New York in September to establish an IT hub for Mastercard to use IT solutions locally and regionally.” 

Green economy transition

Kazakhstan’s transition to a green and sustainable economy is also a key objective, with initiatives focused on renewable energy, hydrogen generation, and the potential construction of a nuclear power plant, to be decided by a proposed national referendum.

“Overall, Kazakhstan’s new economic plan provides a clear vision for the country’s development over the next three years and aims to contribute to the creation of a more balanced, sustainable, and globally integrated economy,” he said.

“Our goal is to reach carbon neutrality by 2060. It will be ten years later than the European Union wants to achieve carbon neutrality, but we think this is the time we need to aspire to reach carbon neutrality. To develop these low-carbon technologies and to convert the economy, we would need an estimated $600 billion in investment. This also creates opportunities for cooperation with international partners, and there are already specific examples [of] how this is being done,” Vassilenko told Global Strat View.

Last year, Kazakhstan and Svevind, a German-Swedish company, signed a contract to create a wind-solar-hydrogen plant in the western part of Kazakhstan that will produce up to 2 million tons of green hydrogen by 2032, Vassilenko said, adding that Svevind plans to invest a staggering $50 billion in Kazakhstan. 

Author profile
Kostis
Kostis Geropoulos

Kostis is Co-founder / Director of Energy & Climate Policy and Security at NE Global Media. Follow him @energyinsider for deep analysis of Energy, Europe and Global Affairs.

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