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Trade facilitation efforts continue in Central Asia, strengthened by reengagement of Uzbekistan

Sustained efforts in the area of trade facilitation are playing an important role in unlocking economic development potential in Central Asia, at both country and regional levels.

The reintegration of Uzbekistan into these practical efforts comes as a positive sign of advancing economic integration. This was one of the core focuses of an interactive and practice-oriented workshop held this week in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, which represented an important step forward in the work of UNECE and OSCE on trade facilitation. 

Senior trade and customs officials from the 5 Central Asian countries - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and for the first time since the workshop series’ inception in 2014, Uzbekistan -, together with Afghanistan, and their main trading partners, Russia and Turkey, gathered for the three-day training workshop. The aim was to equip participants with knowledge on various tools and approaches for trade facilitation implementation in the Central Asian region. The event covered current tasks in the implementation of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) Trade Facilitation Agreement and the practical steps towards facilitating procedures on borders with Uzbekistan. 

This provided the opportunity to discuss such issues as different aspects of trade facilitation implementation in Central Asia, including its benefits, challenges and opportunities, trade facilitation domains, OSCE activities and projects in the field and simplification of trade procedures. Transit regimes in the region, private sector perspectives on trade facilitation, co-ordinated border management and border agency co-operation were also discussed in the course of the event. 

In addition to classroom sessions, a field-trip was organized to the border-crossing point on the Tajik-Uzbek border (Dusti) aiming at assessing the cargo transit process, providing for a comparative perspective in relation to previous visits. A study visit (pictured) to the border point at Torsunzade led to the formulation of recommendations for further improving the processes.

Larisa Kislyakova, Chairman of the Board at the Union of Professional Consultants of Tajikistan noted that the renewed openness of Uzbekistan has allowed Tajikistan and other countries to use Uzbekistan’s infrastructure and accede to main markets. “Uzbekistan is now offering trading routes unhampered by obstacles. This is a potential to be used and by simplifying trade procedures in Tajikistan it will contribute to and foster this growing co-operation,  and create a comfortable environment for transit, including the creation of roadside services in accordance with international standards for transit”. 

Mario Apostolov, Regional Adviser for UNECE noted that “the participation of Uzbek counterparts in the workshop is an important breakthrough in our work on regional trade facilitation. With the establishment of dialogue with this bordering country, we now have the opportunity to discuss the current state of trade routes in the 5 Central Asian countries and make recommendations on further facilitation of co-operation and collaboration between the respective agencies”.

Co-organized by the OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe and UNECE, the workshop was facilitated by and hosted at the OSCE Border Management Staff College in Dushanbe.