Uzbekistan to accelerate Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project

Uzbekistan to accelerate Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project

President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, speaking at the 7th summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States (Turkic Council) in Baku, stated the need to effectively use the potential of the new Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway. This project was originally presented in the South Caucasus as the "third project of the century." However, unlike the first two - the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline - it raised a number of questions in terms of profitability and expediency, including the political one.

Uzbekistan took part in the Turks Council as a full member of the regional organization for the first time. According to Uzbek leader Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Uzbekistan as an integral part of the large Turkic family attaches great importance to the development of relations with Turkic-speaking countries. "Back in the early years of its independence Uzbekistan has brought forward the initiative 'Turkestan - our common home,' which had been supported by the Turkic-speaking community. Our country took an active part in the first summits of heads of Turkic-speaking state," the president emphasized. According to him, the most important thing is that participation in the Turkic Council fully meet the interests of our people. "Today, not only our cultural and spiritual ties, but also trade and economic relations have reached a new level. Over the past three years, the trade turnover between our countries has almost doubled, more than a thousand joint ventures have been created. The transport connection is expanding, the number of visa-free tourist trips is growing, the bonds of brotherhood of our people are strengthening," Mirziyoyev noted.

The Uzbek president drew the attention of the summit to the development of small and medium-sized businesses, which are important for all member states of the organization, including Uzbekistan. He said that over the past three years, priority has been given in Uzbekistan to the development of the strategically important sphere of private property and entrepreneurship. Now its share of gross domestic product is 59%. The country is aiming at the development of small business and private entrepreneurship. "The development of entrepreneurship will allow the creation of new transport and communication networks, logistics centers and thousands of jobs. In this process, we intend to actively use the experience of developed countries. We consider it our priority to create the most favorable conditions for establishing direct, based on mutual understanding and trust relations between entrepreneurs. The results of the business forum of the Business Council of Turkic-speaking states, recently held in Tashkent with the participation of more than 500 businessmen, are aimed at fulfilling these tasks. We offer to organize joint technology parks, innovative start-up companies and venture funds. We are ready to create a joint investment fund and open trading houses in Turkic-speaking countries," Mirziyoyev emphasized.

The Uzbek president also noted that more than 40% of the population of Council member states are young people. "We propose to establish a forum of young entrepreneurs within the framework of the Turkic Council to increase the participation of talented and educated youth in entrepreneurship and hold its first meeting next year in Uzbekistan," Mirziyoyev said.

He emphasized the importance of implementing large transport and communication projects in the countries of the Turkic Council. Their development, according to the president, will create wide opportunities for accessing the markets of Europe, China and South Asia, as well as the effective use of the potential of the new Baku – Tbilisi – Kars railway. "We are interested in the modern infrastructure of the ports of Aktau, Turkmenbashi, Alat, Samsun and Mersin being involved in the organization of transit and logistics centers, and we also offer for joint consideration by the responsible organizations of our countries the issue of providing mutually agreed discounts and preferences when transporting foreign trade cargo across territories of the Turkic Council countries," the Uzbek leader said.

Head of the club of political scientists 'South Caucasus' Ilgar Velizde told Vestnik Kavkaza that Uzbekistan had already begun to use the BTK to transport its cotton and a number of other export goods. Speaking about the efficient use of the railway, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, according to the expert, implied a unified policy and the creation of opportunities for Uzbek producers to use this route more actively. "Since the BTK goes through several countries, the tariff policy differs, for example, in contrast to the northern route, which includes Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. In that case, there is an agreement on the tariff policy. Now Uzbekistan is trying to use a different direction - through Turkmenistan. That's where an inconsistency between the Turkmen and Azerbaijani tariffs is evident," Velizade noted. According to the expert, the reason is that Turkmenistan is not a member of the Turkic Council, therefore it is difficult to talk about creating a common tariff policy in the near future.

Within the framework of the regional association’s cooperation council, the Turkish side proposed to unify customs procedures and tariff policy. In this case, Uzbekistan would have great preferences, which means that its interest would be also great.

A scientist of the Institute for Economics of the RAS, Alexander Karavaev, believes that Uzbekistan, which has just joined the Turkic Council, has suggested the member countries an agenda, which could be interesting for everyone and bring returns and benefits. President Mirziyoyev, in fact, intercepts the agenda of the interaction of the CIS free trade zones and the development of trade and transport relations of Eurasia. "The next year's program of Uzbekistan’s chairmanship in the CIS actually coincides with the Uzbek leader's proposals for the Turkic Council," Karavaev told Vestnik Kavkaza. According to the expert, the set of rational substantive assumptions to all sides of the Turkic Council is small and lies on the surface. Moreover, according to Karavaev, the interaction within the framework of the Turkic Council echoes the way they individually interact with Russia.

"In fact, this community (the Turkic Council - VK) lacks one puzzle that would unite all the lines of this integration structure. This puzzle is Russia," the economist believes. For example, Russian-Turkish economic relations are catching up with Russian-German relations in terms of trade. "Russia ranks second among trade partners of Uzbekistan after Ukraine. Despite the conflict and war, Kiev remains the leader in trade with the CIS countries. And Azerbaijan ranks third. This interaction rests on the infrastructure used by Russian companies, in particular Russian Railways. Moreover, in May of this year, Russian Railways inked an agreement with Turkish Railways on the operation of the railway and construction of a second railway from the Georgian border to Kars and another terminal," Karavaev noted. According to him, if Russia joins the regional association, then the loading of BTK would have reached the planned level. But there is one more problem here - the infrastructure inside Turkey should be completed.