George A. KROL
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Kazakhstan
Success through Innovation: Our Enhanced U.S.-Kazakhstan Strategic Partnership
President Nazarbayev's historic meeting with President Trump on January 16 charted a path forward for increased bilateral cooperation between the United States and Kazakhstan. The two presidents endorsed a far-reaching agenda under which our two countries will work together to ensure regional security, spur technological innovation, accelerate the growth of commerce and enterprise, and expand access to higher education, including in the English language. To me, as someone who has represented the United States in Kazakhstan for the past three years, this visit demonstrated how much connects the United States and Kazakhstan – most importantly, our shared national interests, – and how these connections continue to grow.
I traveled to Washington to participate in the visit. There I observed the leaders of our two countries established great personal warmth in their meetings. The discussions between presidents Trump and Nazarbayev well exceeded the scheduled time. I witnessed a similarly warm and intense engagement between Vice President Pence and President Nazarbayev at the breakfast that the Vice President hosted at his official residence on the grounds of Washington's famed Naval Observatory. I considered the location fortuitous. There, at a nearly two-hundred-year-old scientific establishment whose history marks the United States' rise as a global leader in innovation and technology, the President of Kazakhstan outlined his own vision for cooperation between our countries in innovation and technology.
Diplomats know that no high-level meeting comes about without significant behind-the-scenes efforts. In this case, the meeting of our two presidents owes much to the American and Kazakh diplomats who worked for years on issues of global security. Our professional cooperation on issues such as non-proliferation and tolerance – are only too relevant in today's complex world.
President Trump has laid out a foreign policy that first seeks to protect the American people and our allies and partners. He has directed the U.S. government to ensure that our partners understand that the United States stands for their sovereignty and independence and that we support those who stand as bulwarks against extremist ideologies and instability. The enhanced strategic partnership our presidents inaugurated during this visit encompasses this framework.
During President Nazarbayev's visit, President Trump affirmed America's appreciation for Kazakhstan's leadership role in Central Asia, including through the C5+1 platform. The presidents also spent significant time discussing Afghanistan and the path forward for its peace and stability. They committed to continue support for the Afghan government, both in the spheres of security and humanitarian assistance. Our joint efforts in this area will help to stabilize Afghanistan and integrate Afghanistan into the broader region, preventing it from becoming a source of terrorism or instability in Central Asia.
Our two presidents also praised the long bilateral cooperation between the United States and Kazakhstan in the areas of trade and investment. Since Kazakhstan's independence, U.S. companies have seen its potential and have invested billions of dollars in projects that have helped Kazakhstan become the strongest economy in Central Asia. As Kazakhstan looks to diversify its economy and build an innovation-driven, digital future, the United States has companies willing and able to partner. Following this visit, my colleagues and I will be working to support the American companies attracted to the Kazakhs market by coverage of the presidents' meeting. We will also work with our Kazakh colleagues to advocate for the policies most likely to attract U.S. companies to this market. After all, American companies make their own decisions about where to invest, based on where they see the most potential and the least risk. With American and Kazakh ingenuity combined, Kazakhstan can achieve its ambitious development goals.
We see innovation as an area where the United States is uniquely poised to share knowledge and educational opportunities. President Trump listened with great interest to President Nazarbayev's vision of “Digital Kazakhstan" and the leaders discussed ways in which American technology could bring efficiencies and profits to Kazakh businesses operating in the healthcare, aviation, finance, and agriculture sectors. Here at the U.S. Embassy and at our Consulate General in Almaty, we are pushing ahead with programs to train the next generation of Kazakh innovators and entrepreneurs. For example, through the Special American Business Internship Training Program (SABIT), Kazakh business leaders receive technical assistance and training in U.S. business practices. Since 1992, over 450 Kazakh professionals have traveled to the United States to participate in this unique program. Here in Kazakhstan, our network of eleven American Corners, including a state-of-the art facility that opened just last fall in Almaty, offer free classes and clubs on programming computers, 3D modeling and printing, and robotics. I remain especially proud of the team of Kazakh girls whose mobile application, developed at our American Space in Almaty won last year's Technovation Challenge in Silicon Valley, where they met personally the CEO of Google.
This year we will sponsor several events focused on innovation. In April, the first ever Maker Faire in Central Asia will offer engineers, scientists, programmers, and hobbyists from across the region a space to present their work and plan new collaborations. Also in April, we will hold our third annual 48 Hour Film Race, a contest that challenges film makers to conceive, shoot, and edit a short film in the span of just two days. This year, for the first time, participants from across Central Asia will be able to showcase their talents in the contest. Then in June, our second annual Go Viral Festival will gather over a thousand leaders in the creative fields – media, culture, technology, and business – for three days of workshops, master classes, and presentations by some of the top talent from Central Asia and the United States.
During President Nazarbayev's visit to Washington, we also discussed expansion of our long partnership in education. I am constantly impressed with the skills of the young Kazakhs who have earned degrees in U.S. universities, whether on the Bolashak Program, U.S. government exchange programs, or with their own resources. Thanks in part to the emphasis the Kazakh government has placed on higher education, more Kazakh students currently study in the United States than from the other Central Asian countries combined – nearly 1,800 this academic year. We celebrate their achievements, but we also know there are more talented Kazakhs who could fit right in at American universities, and we will encourage more Kazakh students to choose the United States to continue their educations.
One way we can reach the maximum number of students is through partnerships between Kazakh and American universities. Nazarbayev University already collaborates with top U.S. universities including Duke University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison to develop innovative programs in business, education, the humanities, and social sciences. Other universities in Kazakhstan can benefit from similar partnerships, and our Embassy is working with them to develop proposals and find partners.
Preparing the next generation for a global economy also requires expanding knowledge of the English language in Kazakhstan. In their meeting, President Trump praised President Nazarbayev's goal of making Kazakhstan a trilingual society, and he pledged to help. The U.S. Embassy already has several excellent programs in this area, and we intend to do more to promote English language learning this year. Since 2007, the ACCESS English Microscholarship Program has taught English to nearly 2000 teenagers in Kazakhstan, many from families who could not otherwise afford this sort of intensive language study. The U.S. State Department regularly conducts webinars for English teachers, and I am delighted that Kazakhstan is now among the top five countries in the world in participation in these valuable training programs. Americans sponsored by the U.S. government programs currently teach English in universities and schools in four Kazakhstan's cities, and more will start work this fall. As more Kazakh people learn to communicate in English, they will not only be able to tap into the wealth of knowledge and research available in English; they will also be able to tell the world about Kazakhstan's ancient civilization, culture, and its vibrant modern reality.
I returned from Washington energized by the possibilities that lie ahead for the United States and Kazakhstan. Our two presidents have laid out a set of common interests and objectives that will guide us toward enhancing our already strong strategic partnership. Together, the United States and Kazakhstan, as partners, will contribute to security in Central Asia and the world, help defeat terrorism, and achieve shared prosperity through increased bilateral trade and investment and application of rule of law. I am proud of the American and Kazakh diplomatic work that has brought us to this important milestone in our relationship. I look forward to working with our Kazakh partners to realize the new avenues of cooperation our presidents have set out for us.
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