Tashkent hosted Economic Forum and Steering Board Meeting of UN Special Program for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA)

The United Nations Special Program (UN) for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA) Economic Forum on "Sustainable Transport and Trade for a Green and Inclusive Post-Pandemic Economy" as well as the sixteenth meeting of the Program's Governing Council were held in Tashkent on November 17-19 this year in a hybrid format.

SPECA Forum 2021 focused on the progress of sustainable trade and transport in the region and their potential contribution to green, circular and inclusive economies. The aim of the event is to intensify multilateral dialogue to achieve specific objectives, adopt regional initiatives and strategies, and identify concrete practical actions for their implementation.

The event was attended by leaders of the Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Deputy Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) D.Mariyasin, delegations of SPECA member countries - Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, representatives of the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA), representatives and experts of the European Union (EU), the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and other countries and organizations.

Deputy Prime Minister - Minister of Investments and Foreign Trade of the Republic of Uzbekistan S.Umurzakov, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNECE Executive Secretary O.Algayerova, and UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific A.Alisjahbana addressed the participants at the opening plenary session of the Forum with the video messages.

The Uzbek side noted the positive dynamics of economic cooperation with SPECA member states: over the last few years trade turnover between Uzbekistan and SPECA member states has doubled and reached $5 billion, and the number of new businesses with participation of SPECA member states' capital has increased five times starting from 2017 and reached 1,983 units.

The measures taken in Uzbekistan to liberalize the economy, create a favorable environment for attracting investment, strengthen mechanisms of legal protection of investors and private property, as well as expand trade and economic ties with partner countries were emphasized.

The priority goals were outlined: to strengthen economic ties by taking into account competitive advantages of SPECA member economies, to increase the total trade turnover between SPECA subregion countries with a total market of more than 127 million people at least twice by 2025 through elimination of existing trade barriers, simplification of customs procedures and development of e-commerce.

The Uzbek side put forward a number of proposals, including holding the first meeting of SPECA Investment and Financial Cooperation Working Group in Uzbekistan in 2022 with further transformation of the platform for strengthening regional cooperation and implementation of investment projects, developing an initiative to establish SPECA Fund to finance projects of trans-border economic and environmental cooperation, as well as creating the SPECA Secretariat to organize effective activities of the organization in member countries.

Uzbekistan’s interest in developing cooperation through the creation of inter-regional value chains by deepening production cooperation, adopting a joint program of industrial cooperation, encouraging mutual investment, promoting renewable and hydrogen energy development program, developing transport and transit potential in the region through joint implementation of major logistics infrastructure projects, introduction of unified tariffs and cross-transport preferences was noted.

During the event there were panel sessions on "Sustainable Trade in SPECA Subregion", "Application of Circular Economy Principles to Sustainable Transport, Trade and Tourism in SPECA countries", "Innovative Mechanisms and Tools for Financing Investments for Sustainable Development", "Economic Empowerment of Women for Sustainable Development: political challenges during and after COVID-19 pandemic for SPECA region", "Focus on Uzbekistan: presentation of research and projects with focus on Uzbekistan and its role in regional cooperation".

The Economic Forum resulted in the Tashkent Statement on Strengthening Sustainable Transport, Trade and Connectivity in the SPECA Region to Restore a Greener, Circular and Inclusive Post-Pandemic Economy.

In addition, recommendations were worked out to increase the economic connectivity of the SPECA subregion, enable it to become a hub for sustainable transport, further facilitate intra-regional trade, accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and effectively use norms, standards and tools to promote sustainable economic growth in the region.

The final event of the SPECA Days 2021 in Tashkent was the Sixteenth Session of the Governing Council of this program, chaired by Deputy Minister of Investments and Foreign Trade B.Abidov. At the end of the session the SPECA Work Plan for 2022-2023, reports of SPECA Thematic Working Groups on water, energy resources and environment, sustainable transport, transit and connectivity, trade, innovation and technology, gender and SDGs were adopted.

The Governing Council also made more than ten important decisions covering key areas of the Program's agenda, including the establishment of the Fund and the SPECA Secretariat.

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