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Friday, 10 June 2016 17:00

Great Britain stands ready with others in the EU to support Kazakhstan... – Ambassador of Great Britain to Kazakhstan Featured

Caspian Energy (CE): Your Excellency, what are the plans of your mission for the near future?

Dr. Carolyn Browne, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Great Britain to the Republic of Kazakhstan: I see this year as the period during which we build on the increased momentum between our two countries which has existed since 2013, when Prime Minister David Cameron became the first ever serving British Prime Minister to visit Kazakhstan. Since there, we’ve seen an acceleration of the relations between both governments and wider society in our countries. I also see this year as a year of preparations for EXPO 2017 Astana. We want EXPO to mark the next big step forward in the bilateral relationship. We think it’s going to be an exciting summer next year, and we want everyone who visits Astana to see what the UK can offer.

 

CE: While calling the principles of cooperation with RF, Vice President of the European Commission for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini the other day called the expansion of relations with Central Asian countries as one of the 5 priorities. Do you welcome these theses and will you follow them in Kazakhstan? What are the principles of cooperation of Great Britain with Kazakhstan?

Dr. Carolyn Browne: In March this year, the Foreign Ministers of all 28 EU Member States, including the UK, unanimously agreed on five principles to guide the EU's policy towards Russia.  These principles include the fact that the implementation of the Minsk agreement is the key condition for any substantial change in the EU's current relations with Russia.

Strengthened relations with the EU's Eastern Partners and other neighbours, in particular in Central Asia, was also agreed as a guiding principle. The UK supports steps to strengthen relations between the EU and Central Asia, most recently in the form of the EU-Kazakhstan enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. Since May, elements of that enhanced EU-Kazakhstan agreement including those related to trade and investment are being provisionally applied. We stand ready with others in the EU to support Kazakhstan in implementing the agreement.

 

We are also very excited by the opportunities which EXPO 2017 Astana presents

CE: What potential do you see in Kazakhstan for British investors? Which spheres of economy are the most attractive for cooperation?

Dr. Carolyn Browne: The UK and Kazakhstan already enjoy strong commercial relations. Indeed, the UK is among the top five major investors in Kazakhstan. And since Kazakhstan gained independence in 1991, the volume of the UK's foreign direct investment in this country is over $25 billion.

And there is already a wide scope of British companies engaged with and in Kazakhstan. Many of those operate in the extractive industries sector - oil and gas, yes, but also mining. In addition, there is a strong British commercial presence in the financial services, in the legal space, in project management, in education and in various advanced technology areas.

But we think – and want – to do better. Since 2013, when the first ever visit to Kazakhstan by a serving UK Prime Minister took place, we have seen a real upsurge in interest by British business in this country. That’s partly due to the work of the UK – Kazakhstan Intergovernmental Commission established in 2013, and partly due to the significant expansion in transport between the two countries. Three years ago there were no direct flights between Astana and London. Now, there are four direct non-stop flights a week. Four months ago, my Government launched the option of a 24 hour processing for visa applications in Astana by Kazakhstani citizens, with other priority and regular visa processing options available in Almaty and Atyrau as well as also in Astana. And, in the opposite direction, the Kazakhstan Government has introduced visa-free access for British citizens under certain circumstances. All of which encourages greater trade, and indeed greater contact between people in our two countries.

Education and science is another important area of bilateral cooperation. For example, Kazakhstan is among 20 countries worldwide with whom the British Government has partnered in order to encourage scientific communities to collaborate, to undertake joint research, to develop their research capacity, and to encourage internationally-based publications of scientific research. I’m delighted that Newton-Al Farabi Fund in order to finance this sort of collaboration was set up last year and that it continues to grow.

Another particularly exciting new opportunity is the Kazakhstani Government’s decision to establish an International Financial Centre in Astana, including a new Court to resolve financial and investment disputes on the basis of English common law principles and using the English language. This project has attracted significant and widespread interest in The City of London – which is the world’s premier financial centre – and I’m delighted to see the involvement of UK firms in this particular project grow rapidly.

We are also very excited by the opportunities which EXPO 2017 Astana presents. The UK Government formally committed to a having a national pavilion last autumn. I believe that this will be one of the largest of the national pavilions of all, and we are keen to use this to bring wider UK participation – in trade, scientific, cultural and other sectors – to Kazakhstan at the time of EXPO. We’re keen to showcase the creativity and innovation which the UK is famous for, and to encourage the formation of new partnerships between UK and Kazakhstani organisations and businesses.

And finally, to reflect this increased activity, last year a group of leading UK and Kazakhstani businesses came together to establish the first ever British Chamber of Commerce. I think I’m right in saying that that is still the only foreign chamber which is based in Astana. The fact that this Chamber exists is a clear demonstration of the commitment on both sides to build on the excellent progress made so far. 

 

The more open to foreign trade that that market is, the more likely it will be that British firms will increase their activities in the countries which make up the EEU

CE: As is known, Kazakhstan is a part of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). Which trade opportunities do you see for Great Britain in the area of the EEU?

Dr. Carolyn Browne: We are conscious that one purpose of the EEU is to create a wider market of up to 182.7 million people with fewer or no trade barriers between the countries which are EEU members. The bigger the market, and the more open to foreign trade that that market is, the more likely it will be that British firms will increase their activities in the countries which make up the EEU.

One particularly important recent development was Kazakhstan’s joining the World Trade Organisation as member last year. This is a really significant step. In joining the WTO, Kazakhstan has joined the international regulatory framework and the international obligations which go with that. And in doing so, it helps to increase confidence of prospect foreign investors, whether in the UK or elsewhere, who are considering where to commit their capital.

Another important development was Kazakhstan’s agreement with the European Union last December to an “enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement” – which is a trade-related Treaty. Again, this sends the clearest possible signal to countries in the EU and elsewhere that Kazakhstan is open for business – on the basis of existing international standards and norms. My Government warmly welcomes this, and will continue to support Kazakhstan as it adapt to that new, and welcome, situation.

 

We welcome and support those states’ efforts to reach a mutually acceptable agreement on the Caspian’s legal status

CE: Does Great Britain support under construction Aktau-Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway which shall become a central link of the Great Silk Way from Beijing to London? Does Great Britain plan to invest in infrastructure of this huge project?

Dr. Carolyn Browne: Like other governments, the British Government welcomes plans to develop infrastructure networks in this region. Increasing connectivity, including in road and rail transport links, will bring clear benefits both for Kazakhstan and for the Central Asia region as a whole. 

When President Nazarbayev paid an official visit to London last November at the invitation of my Government, it was agreed that UK and Kazakhstan would increase their cooperation as the Chinese policy of “One Belt One Road” started to bring increased investment and industrial engagement between China and its neighbouring countries. Similarly, when President Xi of China visited London in October, the UK and Chinese Governments agreed to explore how their firms could step up their work together in that context.  I know that many

British companies operating in Kazakhstan, China and the region have already registered an interest in being part of consortia that could build infrastructure projects in the wider region.

 

CE: How would you evaluate the course of negotiations on the legal status of the Caspian?

Dr. Carolyn Browne: It is for the littoral states of the Caspian who are best placed to decide whether their negotiations are making progress. As for as the British Government is concerned, we welcome and support those states’ efforts to reach a mutually acceptable agreement on the Caspian’s legal status. That is the best way in which they collectively can ensure the long-term prosperity and security of the region. We urge the littoral states to continue their work in order reach an early outcome.

 

Thank you for the interview 

Interview made by Sabina Mammadova, Olga Nagiyeva

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