On Monday, Oct 26, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce officially launched the U.S.-Kazakhstan Business Council with the participation of H.E. Askar Mamin, Prime Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan; The Honorable Wilbur Ross, U.S. Secretary of Commerce; Tom Donohue, CEO of U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Michael Wirth, Chairman and CEO of Chevron and Myron Brilliant, Executive Vice President and Head of International Affairs of U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In addition to the featured speakers, 14 Kazakh Ministers joined the event representing all relevant branches of government overseeing the business climate and sectoral regulations.
Myron Brilliant kicked off the launch welcoming all participants and recognizing the support of two Ambassadors, U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan William Moser and Kazakh Ambassador to the United States Erzhan Kazykhanov for their contributions to this event. He also thanked the Council’s Advisory Board, chaired by Chevron, with board members: Citi, ExxonMobil, Fluor, Mastercard, and Shell.
Why Kazakhstan? Kazakhstan is a young nation with a strategic location, the 9th largest country and home to the 12th largest oil and gas reserves in the world. There is a strong track record of Kazakhstan relations with U.S. businesses. The formation of USKZBC is a strategic step for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Council was established last month by upgrading the U.S.-Kazakhstan Business Association in recognition of growing relationship between the two countries. This launch creates an opportunity to celebrate the past 29 years of our relationship ahead of the 30th anniversary of formal diplomatic relations. The Chamber looks to help companies expand into new sectors such as digital economy and agriculture while building on traditional sectors like energy and infrastructure that have strengthened this relationship. The Chamber applauds the monthly meetings between the Prime Minister, American Chamber of Commerce in Kazakhstan and diplomatic community to improve the investment climate. This new Council will look to complement these efforts.
Three Recommendations for Growth Encourage Kazakhstan to continue to meet goals in aligning with international OECD and industry standards. Companies are looking for stability. Local content regulation should remain balanced to ensure projects are competitive and in the long-term interest of developing new, value-added capacities in the local economy versus immediate returns. Fiscal stability, contract sanctity and regulatory as well as legal certainty to attract more investments. Simplifying government regulation will help build greater business relations between the two countries.
Key Takeaways from Secretary Ross’ Remarks: Pleased to celebrate 30 years of formal relations with the formation of this Business Council. Kazakhstan’s two major cities were founded as trade posts on the Silk Road. Since its independence on December 16, 199, the United States is pleased to see Kazakhstan return to its historic position of facilitating trade. During my official visit in 2018 visit, we met with then Prime Minister and current Prime Minister to sign agreements aimed to growing trade between our nations. I am grateful that the relationship between our nations continues to flourish. Trade has more than tripled, proportionate to Kazakhstan’s economic advancement as it develops its extensive deposits. Chevron is Kazakhstan’s largest investor; largest private oil produce and private holder of the Caspian pipeline consortium. Chevron has worked to employ local workers on its projects. Trade has been reduced due to COVID; however, we are optimistic growth will resume as we make progress through the recovery period. Following the success of the 2018 trade mission to Astana, we are pleased to hear the U.S.-Kazakhstan Business Council plans to host trade missions between two countries in 2021 when conditions allow.
Though we are beginning to see an economic rebound, the global health crisis combined with low oil prices have created uncertainty in global markets. Kazakhstan has not resumed full production capacity of its oil reserves. We encourage companies to consider exploring lesser-developed aspects of the Kazakhstan economy. Companies like John Deere and Tyson Foods all operate outside of the oil and gas sector. Our companies are very much looking forward to working with Kazakhstan and the Department of Commerce stands ready to facilitate more opportunities for engagement as Kazakhstan looks to diversify its economy further. Following Secretary Ross’ remarks, Chevron’s Chairman and CEO Michael Wirth introduced the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan and stated their excitement to continue Chevron’s role as head of advisory council of USKZBC and to see the Council grow in strength and membership as we work to attract new investments in Kazakhstan.
His Excellency Askar Mamin, Prime Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan, opened his remarks by thanking U.S. government for their consistent support in the past 30 years.
Key Takeaways from Prime Minister Mamin’s Remarks: As our economies recover from the pandemic, we are hoping to grow our trade and commercial relations. 2018 visit by our then President Nursultan Nazarbayev to the United States, we have been working to grow and diversify our trade and commercial relations. Oct 2018 visit by Secretary Ross enabled countless deals to be signed touching upon various factors. We thank Secretary Ross for his personal interest in growing our trade and investment agenda. My own visit to the United States in December 2019 allowed us to further discuss additional topics, including reaching a deal with Tyson Foods. United States is a major trade and investment partner for the Republic of Kazakhstan. In 2019 alone, a quarter of all investments came from the United States. We thank you for your continued interested in Kazakhstan.
Our trade relations have been limited so far this year due to the pandemic; but we hope to see it change soon. Kazakhstan stands ready to resume our robust trade and investment partnership with United States.
Growth and development ambitions had to slow down due to the pandemic. Strategic planning for 2025 with export-oriented economy and realizing agriculture potential while increasing digitization will be prioritized. Kazakhstan will also look to increase investments and grow its volume of inward FDI. Our most important goal is to create space for private companies to operate. We are continuously working to improve the quality of our public and private institutions as recognized by the World Bank. Regulatory reform, rule of law and stability are our priorities to create the most business-friendly economy in the region. Around 44,000 countries enjoy the benefit of doing business in Kazakhstan, including access to some of the most dynamic markets. We recognize this event as a great opportunity for expanding trade between our nations. It is our responsibility to look for new growth opportunities in the post-pandemic world. I hope this meeting will create new opportunities for doing business with Kazakhstan. The launch event of the U.S. Chamber’s U.S.-Kazakhstan Business Council ended with closing remarks from Chamber’s CEO, Tom Donohue.
Key Takeaways from Tom Donohue’s Remarks: The Chamber is committed to this important economic relationship between the two countries. The Chamber was honored to host Kazakhstan’s former President in 2017. In the three years since, we heard from our members about the opportunities for critical growth in the region. Through this Council, we hope to further the strategic dialogue to enhance growth, competitiveness and the ability to overcome the challenges and uncertainty brought by the pandemic. Chevron’s model in Kazakhstan is a great testament to how investing together can contribute to global growth. The Chamber commends Kazakhstan for its commitment to reforms and global standards that will help attract investment in key sectors beyond energy such as digital economy, agriculture among others. The Chamber will work with our partners such as the AmCham in Kazakhstan to pursue policies to further advance Kazakhstan’s competitiveness. As we approach the 30th year of relations, this Council will celebrate and build on this milestone to realize the full potential of key sectors discussed today. Whether in person or virtual, during times of economic growth or slowdown, our countries are stronger when working together.