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FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Regional dialogue supports trade integration in Central Asia

Kyrgyzstan Deputy Minister of Agriculture Erkinbek Choduev, with FAO Representative to Kyrgyzstan Dorjee Kinlay

Encouraging an open dialogue on pressing issues affecting agricultural trade in Central Asia was the purpose of a three-day regional workshop in Kyrgyzstan, organized recently by FAO in collaboration with the UN Development Programme and the Ministry of Agriculture of China.

“Agricultural Technologies and Trade Policy in Central Asia: Issues and Prospects” addressed three broad topics: the relationship between agricultural and trade policies, changes for agriculture and agricultural policies stemming from trade agreements and deeper regional integration, and conditions for fostering adoption of agricultural technologies to raise production levels and promote trade.

The event, held in late-May in Bishkek, brought together representatives of Ministries of Agriculture and Economy from four Central Asian countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan), Ministry of Agriculture of China, World Trade Organization, Eurasian Economic Commission, private sector associations and international organizations.

As the countries of Central Asia intensify their participation in international agreements, at both global and regional level, the need to align domestic policies and programs with these processes becomes ever more important. Governments have the challenge of ensuring that trade policy changes are consistent with national growth and development goals.

Vice-Minister of agriculture and amelioration of the Kyrgyz Republic, Erkinbek Choduev, highlighted in his opening address that Kyrgyzstan is the most open economy in the region, which poses both challenges and opportunities for national development and food security.

Jamie Morrison, senior economist with FAO’s Trade and Markets Division, underlined that trade policy needs to be context-specific and dynamic. “It is essential,” he said, “for countries to participate in trading systems in a way that is compatible with their development and food security objectives. They also need increased capacity to analyse developments in the international agricultural markets, trade policies and trade rules, he added.

Trade rules are not the only factor affecting the agricultural sector, however. Other variables, particularly macroeconomic ones, can play an even greater role in some circumstances. Dmitry Rylko, general director of the Institute for Agricultural Market Studies, Russian Federation, said that the sharp devaluation of the Russia’s national currency had had a more sizable effect on domestic markets than the country’s accession to the World Trade Organization. 

In the case of Kyrgyzstan, on the other hand, underdeveloped land and labour markets are among the key supply constraints that undermine the country’s export potential, according to Roman Mogilevskii, senior research fellow at the University of Central Asia.

Private sector participants pointed to import-export “red tape” and non-tariff trade barriers, and difficulties with obtaining sanitary and phytosanitary certificates as typical constraints. Low quality of statistics for monitoring the evolution of regional trade was also mentioned by workshop participants as an area requiring urgent government attention.

The final day of the workshop was dedicated to strengthening South-South cooperation between Central Asian countries and China. The FAO’s South-South Cooperation Program with China will apply Chinese expertise in assisting Central Asian countries as they improve agricultural productivity and food security through adoption of agricultural technologies and appropriate policies. The event served to establish the next steps for implementing the programme, which involves formulation of national projects with assistance from FAO and Chinese experts.

11 June 2015, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

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