Uzbekistan becomes more attractive to Japan
Uzbekistan becomes a magnet for foreign investment in Central Asia. Japan announced its intention to expand its economic presence in this Central Asian country. Tashkent hosted a business forum, attended by heads of more than 50 leading companies and private entrepreneurs from Japan.
"The reforms carried out in Uzbekistan and the creation of an attractive environment for investors play an important role in increasing the investment flow," deputy of the lower house of the Japanese parliament Keisuke Suzuki said. "This forum will open new dimensions in cooperation between Uzbekistan and Japan, as well as will promote the achievement of beneficial agreements and the development of ties between our countries."
During the forum, Japanese entrepreneurs got acquainted with the economic potential of Uzbekistan, opportunities for cooperation in the spheres of oil, gas, chemical industry, electrical engineering, information and communication technologies. However, Japan is a long-standing economic partner of Uzbekistan. Ten enterprises with the participation of Japanese investments operate in the republic. The main areas of their activities are oil and gas, petrochemical and chemical industries, production of power equipment, machine-building and engineering products, provision of transport and logistics services, trade operations, tourism and others. Representative offices of 15 firms and companies of Japan are accredited in Uzbekistan.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gave boost to the development of economic relations in October last year. He visited Uzbekistan and other countries of Central Asia. During his October 2015 visit, agreements worth $27 billion were signed. Not all of them were realized, but Japan's interest in Uzbekistan has not been lost. (Japan ready to compete with China in Central Asia - VK).
The Uzbek-Japanese business forum is a common practice in the relations between the countries that develop cooperation with the aim of strategic partnership. So far it has not provided any grounds for deep and far-reaching conclusions about any drastic changes in the Japanese strategy in Uzbekistan and in the Central Asian region as a whole. Formulations such as "an agreement was reached on ..." are just plans or a certain look into the future. Nevertheless, the Uzbek political scientist, Doctor of Historical Sciences Rafik Sayfullin told Vestnik Kavkaza that, first, Japan is not a newcomer to the Central Asian region. After the countries of the region gained independence, Japan was a serious competitor to China and the United States, although Central Asia was perceived as Russia's "patrimony" by inertia.
Second, despite Tokyo's increased attention to the Central Asian countries, including serious investment into various projects of certain countries of the region, including Uzbekistan, Japan is not perceived as a dominating external factor, especially against the backdrop of China and Russia.
Third, Central Asia is largely perceived in Japan through the prism of its global geopolitical interests, particularly, its difficult relations with China. In other words, Central Asia remained for Japan not an end in itself in recent times, but a sphere of contact with its vital interests (China, Russia, the United States).
"In general, Japan's actions in Central Asia, couched in the vague and broad wording of 'Central Asia + Japan', have not been systemic until now, and it looks like Japanese visionary experts come to this conclusion. According to them, Japan increasingly lags behind other major external players in the Central Asian region, and the time has come to make a realistic assessment of all the previous activity in the Central Asian region. Moreover, there is a need to develop new approaches with the objective of setting up systematic linkage between Japan and Central Asian countries, which demonstrate the willingness to become an independent subject of regional geopolitical trends," Sayfullin said. In his opinion, one of such links, along with numerous, but often disconnected business projects, could be the Afghan settlement issue. In any case, the Uzbek-Japanese business forum can be perceived as an integral part of the logic of Japan's current strategy in Central Asia.