Kazakh, German FMs Discuss Economic Relations in Astana
Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan Erlan Idrissov met visiting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Astana on Nov. 10 to discuss economic cooperation. Steinmeier was accompanied by a delegation of German businessmen on his visit, which focused on business and political connections.
At the meeting at Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Steinmeier called Kazakhstan an “anchor of stability” in Central Asia and expressed Germany’s desire to strengthen ties. The foreign ministers discussed bilateral trade, which in 2013 reached a total of $3.2 billion and from January – September of this year was $1.95 billion. Seventy-two trade and investment agreements, totalling $3.2 billion, have also been signed between the countries over the last three years.
“Kazakhstan is the leading trade partner of Germany in Central Asia. Today, I am accompanied by a big delegation from the German business community. Our country is interested in investing in Kazakhstan,” Steinmeier said at a joint press briefing after the meeting. His country sees highway, railroad and other infrastructure projects in Kazakhstan as great opportunities, he said.
Idrissov began by recalling the importance of two political documents signed between Kazakhstan and the EU in October: a document on the completion of negotiations on the draft of the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) between the countries and a document completing bilateral negotiations between Kazakhstan and the EU regarding Kazakhstan’s accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
“We consider the PCA an opportunity to bring our cooperation to a new level in all areas. The document provides a framework for the strategic partnership and significant growth in trade and investment,” Idrissov said.
The ministers also commented on international issues. Steinmeier noted that conflict de-escalation was a topic during his conversations with President Nazarbayev and Idrissov earlier in the day. “We reviewed proposals that our countries, jointly as neighbours, can take towards the de-escalation of pressing issues in the Middle East, Iran, Iraq and Ukraine. Kazakhstan and Germany will continue to make efforts to ensure that the intensity of these conflicts are decreasing,” he said.
Interparliamentary and interparty relations between Kazakhstan and Germany were also reviewed, as well as the work of the Kazakh-German Intergovernmental Working Group on Trade and Economic Cooperation and the Kazakh-German Business Council for Strategic Cooperation. Kazakhstan’s legislators meet regularly with members of the Germany-Central Asia parliamentary group in Germany, Idrissov said. “The dialogue between the Nur Otan and Christian Democratic Union parties is also developing,” he noted.
Issues concerning ethnic Germans living in Kazakhstan are of great political and practical importance, Kazakhstan’s foreign minister said, adding that ethnic Germans in Kazakhstan and Kazakhstan’s immigrants to Germany serve as a bridge between the two countries.
EXPO 2017 was also on the agenda. Idrissov briefed Steinmeier about preparations for the event and gave him an official invitation letter from President Nazarbayev to Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel to participate in the exhibition.
“The theme of EXPO 2017, future energy, is focused on transitioning to a green economy. Our country is ready to share its experience in this field with our Kazakhstan partners,” the German foreign minister said.
Visa facilitation, a priority for Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry, was touched on at the press conference. The issue will be reviewed by the German government, Steinmeier said, though he cautioned that making changes will be a long process, as Germany follows EU rules. This summer, Kazakhstan introduced unilateral visa-free regimes for citizens of its top 10 investor nations, which include Germany.
Asked about the EU Strategy for Central Asia, which Steinmeier took a leading role in crafting in 2007 during his first stint as foreign minister, Steinmeier said the strategy has had some success and that updating it will be a matter of further discussion with the countries of the region.