Dear ladies and gentlemen,
Today we are discussing the future world, where the role of Asia is becoming increasingly salient. Being geographically located both in Asia and Europe Kazakhstan considers itself to be a Eurasian state. Therefore in my address I would like to focus on Eurasian perspective.
Eurasia, being a backbone of the modern world, is undergoing sweeping transformation which will have far-reaching consequences for the entire world. There are four major transformations that I would like to single out in my presentation.
First. We witness the unprecedented transformation of Russia with whom Kazakhstan shares the world’s longest land border. New geopolitical posture of Russia has been shaped by changing global landscape. Western sanctions affected Russian economy and caused tension in the relations between Russia and the West, first of all, the USA. As a result some experts argue that the world is sliding into a new Cold War.
Therefore Russia’s foreign policy has now shifted its focus on Asia, particularly to China. Sino-Russian relations both in economic area and foreign policy have become closer than ever before. The two nuclear powers share common views on all major international issues that are reflected in the UN Security Council voting. Thirty years ago amidst Soviet-Chinese confrontation which nearly brought the two countries to a nuclear war, this kind of situation could not even be perceived.
Strategic partnership between Russia and China produces new global reality, in addition to that, any major global issue such as Ukraine, Syria, international terrorism, nuclear non-proliferation cannot be addressed without direct involvement of Russia which has strengthened its strategic position by having sent troops to Syria.
At the same time even though the partnership between Russia and China is strategic in its nature it is wrong to assume that a new bloc is emerging. Both states have their own strategic interests and also realize the importance of cooperation with the West and, certainly, with the United States. The question is how to seek a common ground with the US in present very complex circumstances to tackle the most acute issues of the global agenda to meet the interests of the world community. The recent visit of the US State Secretary to Moscow has proved this tendency.
In general we in Kazakhstan are against the bloc mindset as far as international relations are concerned and are committed to joint solution of urgent problems. For obvious reasons strategic partnership and allied relationship with Russia are extremely essential to Kazakhstan. Cooperation between the two neighbors has been enhancing in all areas. Meanwhile the USA is a major investor to our economy particularly in energy sector. China is also a very important partner of my country, out of 27 billion US dollars of the Chinese investments to the CIS countries, 23 billion US dollars were sent to Kazakhstan.
Second. Talking about changing landscape in Eurasia it is worth mentioning serious transformation taking place in China. The rise of the world’s second largest economy is going on, even though at a slower pace. Trying to prevent overheating of its economy Beijing is encouraging domestic consumption, boosting innovation, initiating huge cooperation projects such as “One Belt, One Road”, the Asian infrastructure Investment Bank, the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Free Trade Zone. China has decided to give up outdated and environment-damaging industrial capacity to become a high-tech powerhouse. My assessment is that this strategic plan will be accomplished.
Beijing has emerged as an active global actor. China’s role in Central Asia has been steadily increasing. Its presence is backed by plentiful financial resources that other countries cannot afford to provide nowadays. According to President Xi Jinping China will promote “One Belt, One Road” as the main trade and investment project that will boost Asian economy.
Political and economic rise of China and the US presence in Asia with its Trans-Pacific Partnership generate speculations about geopolitical ambitions and new rivalry between the two powers, including the territorial issues on the Sea.
However, despite the enmity, both China and the US possess huge capacity to boost regional development. For Central Asian states it is vitally important to find ways to combine trade and economic strategies of the leading powers. The synergy of these strategic projects will enable the region to offer to the world an efficient and balanced model of global economic development.
The role of Central Asia in global politics is growing. Blessed with enormous natural resources and at the same time being located close to conflict zones including Afghanistan this region is becoming a pillar of the whole Eurasian continent. All big powers continue to show their interests to Central Asia. If twenty years ago the US dominated in the region, over the past five years Russia and China seriously increased their presence.
President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev put forward an idea about Great Eurasia that would embrace the Eurasian Economic Union, the Silk Road Economic Belt and the European Union as a single integration project of the 21 century. We expect that this idea will be widely discussed at the Astana Economic Forum this May.
The third transformation is taking place in the European Union. A number of blatant terrorist acts, unprecedented migration crisis, financial problems, and British confusion about its EU membership suggest that Europe will never be the same again and the "Old Continent" is entering an era of grave upheaval. However, the potential of the EU cannot be understated; it will be able to overcome predicaments since the EU is still attractive to its members and outsiders as an evolving institution.
The European Union is the largest trade and investment partner of Kazakhstan. Three months ago we signed the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the EU. This framework document encompasses a wide range of relations and is forward looking. Certainly, we are not planning to join the EU and rather pursue a pragmatic policy. Three days ago Kazakhstan’s President visited Brussels and held meetings with top officials of the EU.
Fourth. Negative transformation is taking place in the Middle East. Syria, Libya and Yemen were in chaos for the last five years. The largest terrorist group in history, the so called “Islamic State” has appeared and strengthened its foothold.
Religious extremism is one of the main challenges not only in the Middle East, but also in other parts of the world. Unfortunately, this phenomenon has expanded worldwide. The fight against terrorism requires consolidated measures both on military and ideological fronts. International terrorism can undermine the world order. Therefore this issue should be a priority for all countries concerned. A global network to counter terrorism needs to be established under the UN auspices. This evil should not become a normality in our daily life.
Kazakhstan is the host of the Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions that offers its inclusive platform for political and religious leaders to engage in a dialogue to discuss most pressing issues such as combating extremist and terrorist threat. It is essential to ensure efficient involvement of religious leaders in explaining the malignity of religious extremism. The Conference “Religions Against Terrorism” is to be held in Astana on 31 May and it will bring together members of many Parliaments and representatives of world religions.
We believe that the end to Iran’s isolation is a positive factor in regional cooperation. Kazakhstan has been substantially contributing to the success of international negotiations on the Iran’s nuclear programme. Two rounds of negotiations were held in our country. Their outcome was reflected in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iran’s nuclear programme. On December 27, 2015 in coordination with the P5+1, Iran, the IAEA and the UN Security Council Kazakhstan supplied 60 tons of natural uranium to Iran to compensate the shipment of low-enriched uranium from this country. Apart from that a low-enriched uranium fuel bank was established in Kazakhstan to encourage peaceful use of nuclear energy.
A Nuclear Security Summit has just been held in Washington and was attended by the President of Kazakhstan and the Prime Minister of Singapore. Kazakhstan is a consistent advocate of comprehensive nuclear disarmament. 25 years ago, even during the Soviet time, President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a decree to close down the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site and our country voluntarily renounced its nuclear arsenal inherited from the Soviet Union, the fourth largest in the world. It was a unique case in the international disarmament history. Therefore Kazakhstan has a firm standing on disarmament issue, in particular on the North Korean nuclear programme.
We need to acknowledge that the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons because of ambiguities is not fully observed. Unfortunately, the proliferation of nuclear arms and its technology is a sad reality; these deadly weapons have already fallen into the hands of irresponsible politicians, and terrorists are next in line.
Regional cooperation to reverse negative trends in international security area should be developed. We are closely watching the multifaceted activity of ASEAN and believe that its experience is useful for Eurasian organizations.
My country initiated the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union. The EEU is purely an economic project based on pragmatic approach and shared interests.
Kazakhstan proposed to declare 2016 the year of enhanced economic ties of the Eurasian Economic Union with other countries and regional organizations including ASEAN. Last year Vietnam signed a Free Trade Agreement with the EEU. Singapore is showing interest in signing of such an agreement as well. With the launch of the EEU, Asian companies establishing joint ventures in Kazakhstan will get access to five national markets embracing 180 million people and GDP worth 2.2 billion US dollars.
We believe that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization comprising two permanent members of the UN Security Council - Russia and China, as well as Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries is an important institution. The SCO pursues a universal agenda including the fight against terrorism, religious extremism, separatism; economic, investment and humanitarian cooperation. This year the SCO is going to welcome India and Pakistan as its new members, which will give it additional political and economic weight.
Kazakhstan is convinced that contradictions existing between Asian countries should not impede building a continental system of security and cooperation. With this in mind we initiated the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia. Its summit meetings of heads of state and government are convened every four years, the recent one was successfully held in Shanghai. This forum has become a tangible factor in Asian security.
Our country is active in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe spanning a vast region from Vancouver to Vladivostok. In 2010 after more than 10 years of interval our capital Astana hosted the OSCE Summit which adopted the Declaration proclaiming indivisible Eurasian security.
We believe that amidst global turbulence all states regardless of their economic and military capacities should enhance the central role of the United Nations in global affairs. The erosion of the UN and international law may have a devastating effect on the modern world especially against the backdrop of growing terrorism. Kazakhstan proposed to convene a UN conference at the highest level to uphold principles of international law to restore trust.
I would also like to say some words about the Silk Road Economic Belt project which was launched by President Xi Jinping during his visit to Kazakhstan in September 2013. It is a powerful geoeconomic strategy aimed to modernize transport infrastructure spanning from the Pacific Ocean to Europe. Kazakhstan expressed its willingness to join this project and developed its own infrastructure development programmes. This year the Kazakh part of the Western Europe - Western China highway that is almost 2800 km long will be built. We are also constructing a high-speed rail across Kazakhstan. The container shipping along China-Kazakhstan-Europe route has grown from 6,000 in 2013 to 48,000 in 2015 and is going to reach 95,000 this year. The number of trains passing along this route will increase to 1,100 in 2016 from 77 in 2013.
In 2015 Kazakhstan launched the “Nurly Zhol” (The Shiny Path) programme to develop transport, logistical, energy, industrial, tourist, housing and social infrastructure. The initial stage of this programme cost 28 billion US dollars and supports specific sectors including industry, agriculture, boosts export and protects domestic market. This project is also funded by the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Islamic Development Bank. Each year 3 billion US dollars are transferred from the Kazakh National Fund to move the project forward.
By 2018 we will build and upgrade 9,000 km of motor roads and highways, construct a new seaport infrastructure on the Caspian Sea that will connect Kazakhstan with the Persian Gulf and Black Sea. We are enhancing logistics hubs along the border with China. Last year a new Kazakhstan-Chinese logistics terminal was launched in the Lianyungang port.
Our response to global economic crisis goes beyond the package of the above said measures and infrastructure development projects. Last year we launched comprehensive institutional reforms aimed at ensuring the rule of law, boosting industrial development and economic growth, strengthening national unity as well as building transparent and accountable government. Our Parliament adopted 59 laws which among other things will further streamline foreign investment rules in the country. We call these reforms 100 Concrete Steps or the Plan of Nation. We invite Singapore and ASEAN member-countries to explore Kazakhstan and to take part in Expo-2017 to be held in Astana under the theme “Future Energy”.
A new high-tech village including EXPO pavilions is under construction now and as soon as the exhibition is over it will accommodate the new Astana International Financial Center. This Financial Center located halfway from London to Singapore will be based on the English law, preferential tax treatment and independent arbitration court. Our Parliament already passed the law to create a legal framework and some foreign experts including those from Singapore are helping us to launch it. If it is necessary amendments to the Constitution are also to be made.
Yesterday I had very substantive talks with President Tony Tan Keng Yam, Speaker of the Parliament Madam Halimah Yacob and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong. In general, we share common views on acute global issues. Kazakhstan is committed to enhance its multifaceted cooperation with Singapore.
In conclusion, I wish every success to the Forum participants.
Thank you for your attention.