WASHINGTON – On March 31, senior officials of the governments of the United States, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan met for the Council Meeting of the U.S. – Central Asia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). Officials from Afghanistan and Pakistan attended as observers.
The participants affirmed the TIFA as a valuable mechanism to strengthen trade and investment ties between the United States and the countries of Central Asia, as well as among those countries in the region.
Participants focused on expanding trade and creating an enabling environment for business that will strongly promote regional private sector activity and enhance regional connectivity. Participants also reviewed trade, transit, and investment issues among Central Asian countries. In addition, they discussed the lapse of duty-free treatment under the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and noted the benefits of GSP to Central Asian countries’ economic development as well as the importance of meeting the GSP eligibility criteria, including protecting internationally recognized worker rights and providing adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights.
The United States provided its counterparts with information on the key themes of the Biden Administration’s trade policy, including with respect to labor, environment and climate concerns, and the equitable distribution of the benefits of trade to underserved communities.
The participants reaffirmed that meetings of the TIFA Council and Working Groups foster bilateral, regional, and global trade and investment opportunities in Central Asia. As part of the TIFA engagement, participants met in focused Working Groups addressing customs, intellectual property, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and women’s economic empowerment.
The participants also discussed issues related to digital trade among Central Asian countries and the United States, noting that digitally enabled business services are essential to broad-based inclusive economic growth and innovation across economies. Participants agreed to focus on ensuring the free flow of information across borders with a cohesive legal, regulatory, and policy environment characterized by openness, transparency, competition, and non-discrimination. In the development of policies affecting digital trade, participants agreed to prioritize broad stakeholder participation, including focusing on the ways in which the digital economy can broaden the reach of small and medium enterprises into global markets, enhance women’s economic empowerment, and support the development of a robust private sector. Participants also agreed to emphasize consistency, evidence-based policymaking, and regulatory accountability. The TIFA Council agreed to launch an additional working group on digital trade.
Furthermore, the participants recognized the importance of implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement and of international best practices in the development of standards and their use in regulations. Participants emphasized the importance of making further strides towards increased growth, prosperity, and stability through regional connectivity. In this regard, participants welcomed the attendance of Pakistan and Afghanistan at this meeting as an important opportunity to promote increased connectivity and trade between Central Asia and South Asia. They further appreciated Afghanistan and Pakistan’s interest in renegotiating the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA).
The participants decided that the next meeting of the U.S. – Central Asia TIFA Council would take place in 2022 in the Central Asia region.