Delegation of Uzbekistan visits the EU
During the visit, the delegation took part in the 15th meeting of the Uzbekistan-EU Cooperation Committee and the 13th meeting of the Subcommittee on Economy, Trade and Investment between Uzbekistan and the EU in Brussels, and briefed in Brussels and several separate detailed meetings with business circles of Belgium and the Netherlands.
Meetings of the Committee and the Subcommittee
Within the framework of the regular meetings of the Uzbekistan-EU Cooperation Committee and the Subcommittee on Economy, Trade and Investment between Uzbekistan and the EU, a wide range of topical issues of bilateral cooperation was discussed in Brussels. In particular, information on the fundamental changes in socio-economic and political spheres, in the field of human rights protection, as well as the creation of a favorable investment and business environment, has been brought to the European side.
The 15th meeting of the Uzbekistan-EU Cooperation Committee was led by the Deputy Managing Director for Europe and Central Asia of the European External Action Service, Luc Devin, and the Minister of Foreign Trade of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Jamshid Khodjaev.
Luke Devin highly appreciated the reforms in Uzbekistan in the sphere of public administration, democratization of the country, strengthening the rule of law, protecting the rights of entrepreneurs, and opening up opportunities for foreign investors.
"We welcome the process of liberalization and democratization in Uzbekistan, under the leadership of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev,” emphasized Luke Devin. - In the bilateral relations between Uzbekistan and the European Union came a historic moment. The EU watches with great interest the rapid changes in Uzbekistan, which led to dynamic transformations throughout Central Asia. EU High Representative Federica Mogherini twice visited Uzbekistan over the past year, which indicates an increased attention to the country and a serious intention to develop bilateral relations. "
Luke Devin welcomed the elimination of many problems that hampered the development of relations.
First, the issue of currency conversion, which for a long time troubled the European business, was successfully resolved.
Secondly, Uzbekistan resumed the process of accession to the WTO. This was an important signal for foreign investors and trading companies, because this organization serves as a global platform for regulating international trade.
Third, the Government of Uzbekistan has begun to pay special attention to the development of transport and communication links in the region and far beyond its borders, the elimination of customs and logistics barriers.
The EU also supports the tax reform initiated in the country and believes that a comprehensive reform of the taxation system will allow to unify the system of tax collection, exclude the practice of providing unjustified benefits to individual companies and, in general, will positively affect the state of the country’s economy.
At the 13th meeting of the Subcommittee on Economy, Trade and Investment with the EU, the current state and prospects for the development of bilateral trade, economic and investment cooperation, as well as the expansion of cooperation in the technical and energy spheres were discussed. The European side expressed support for the ongoing reforms in Uzbekistan in the sphere of foreign trade. In particular, it was noted the importance of increasing the transparency of customs procedures by digitizing foreign trade transactions and exchanging documents.
The head of the European delegation, the head of the European External Action Service Philippe van Amersfoort also highly appreciated the policy pursued under the leadership of Shavkat Mirziyoyev for further liberalization of currency regulation and economy, reducing the presence of the state in it, and increasing the attractiveness of Uzbekistan for foreign investors.
The European side expressed readiness to assist Uzbekistan in increasing the export of agricultural products to the EU Member States through the development of a certification system for food products in accordance with the requirements of the EU food safety legislation. According to the European Union, the establishment of a food safety and quality control system in Uzbekistan, which will be recognized in the European Union, will open wide opportunities for the export of Uzbek food to the European market.
During the meeting, representatives of the European Union expressed readiness to consider providing technical assistance in ratifying and effectively implementing the remaining two international conventions necessary for Uzbekistan to receive unilateral tariff preferences for the EU under the Generalized System of Preferences.
Also, the EU is ready to provide technical assistance to bring national legislation and practices in line with WTO norms. At the same time, the possibility of using the EU experience in sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barriers to trade, support measures in agriculture, intellectual property rights and others in Uzbekistan was noted.
The EU expressed willingness to support the efforts of the Government of the Republic of Uzbekistan to promote the peace process in Afghanistan, expand trade and economic and transport and transit cooperation with this country.
The European side expressed the intention to develop an updated EU Strategy for Central Asia, taking into account the interests of the Republic of Uzbekistan in the sphere of economic transformation and strengthening of regional cooperation in Central Asia.
Briefing in Brussels
Also within the framework of the visit to Belgium from 5 to 8 June 2018, the Uzbek delegation led by the Minister of Foreign Trade Jamshid Khodjaev held a briefing in Brussels on the issues of trade, economic and investment potential of Uzbekistan. The event was also attended by representatives of the European External Action Service, business circles of the Benelux countries, the media, as well as the diplomatic corps accredited in the host country.
During the briefing, the Minister of Foreign Trade of the Republic of Uzbekistan brought to the attention of the participants the detailed information on the ongoing social and economic transformations under the leadership of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, and also called on the European community to actively use the available opportunities in the trade and investment spheres.
"Uzbekistan is sincerely interested in expanding cooperation and implementing joint projects with potential European investors, entrepreneurs and banks," Khodjaev emphasized.
The head of the European Institute for Asian Studies A. Goetals stressed that due to the dynamic reforms and created free economic zones throughout the country, Uzbekistan is becoming a "political and trade and economic hub of the region." The new transport and communication initiatives are closely connected with all the countries of the region, incl. Afghanistan, with the outside world. At the same time, new trade agreements link the country with key foreign economies. Thus, the European Union has become the fourth largest trading partner of Uzbekistan.
For today, the European Union implements in Uzbekistan 25 projects with a total budget of almost 103 million euros in various areas.
Meetings with the business community of Belgium and the Netherlands
During the first days of the visit, the delegation of Uzbekistan held a number of meetings with representatives of business circles in Belgium and the Netherlands. To discuss the experience of Dutch gardening companies using a cluster system, a meeting was organized in Amsterdam with representatives of the Netherlands Ministry of Economy, Agriculture and Innovation, as well as the leaders of the Dutch Producers Association (DPA), the Fresh Produce Center, the Knowledge and Innovation Center World Horti Center, Holland Horti International, Rijk Zwaan Export BV
It should be noted that these organizations occupy the leading positions in the world in the development of agricultural clusters.
During the meetings, the sides raised issues of developing cooperation between the two countries in the field of creating agro-clusters, introducing innovative methods to agriculture, as well as using the Dutch’s advanced know-how in the field of transport logistics, sanitary and phytosanitary measures for the export of Uzbek agricultural products to the markets of European countries. The possibility of establishing partnership relations between specialized universities of the Netherlands and Uzbekistan was also considered with the aim of organizing student exchange and internship training, as well as attracting leading Dutch specialists to Uzbekistan.
The Netherlands is of great commercial interest for Uzbek producers and opens up huge potential for them. The volume of imports of agricultural goods, including for subsequent re-export to other countries, amounts to several tens of billions of euros per year. The volume of exports is more than 91 billion euros per year.
On 6 June, a meeting with the authorized representative of the Mix Market trading network for Central Asia Victor Pauls was held. Mix Market is a supermarket chain in Germany, founded in 1997.
The Uzbek delegation met with officials of the Flemish Investment and Trade Agency (FIT) and the Association of European Chambers of Commerce (EUROCHAMBRES) to discuss possible areas of cooperation.
Business meetings in Belgium and the Netherlands that were held during the visit allowed the Uzbek side to study the principle of organizing the work of producer associations in order to promote the development of the agricultural production and trade sector. The Dutch partners expressed their readiness to strengthen cooperation with representatives of state and private enterprises of Uzbekistan, carrying out activities in the field of agricultural production.
It is expected that the European companies will send delegations to Uzbekistan within 2018 to identify pilot projects.