U.S. Statement – Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Ministerial Conference October 26, 2016 Islamabad, Pakistan

President Nakao, Finance Minister Dar, ladies and gentlemen.  I would like to thank the Asian Development Bank and Pakistan for organizing this conference.  The United States has strongly supported CAREC since its inception.  It is an honor to be here today with others who are building a stable and prosperous Central Asia – one more connected to its neighbors and the world.

It is well known that Central Asia includes some of the globe’s vital historical transit routes.  The region was a nexus of global trade and commerce, from the days of the Roman Empire and Imperial China, through the breakup of the Mongol Empire and the rise of Italian trading cities.

Today, we see once again the rise of trade in the region.  Overland routes carry goods from Asia to Europe.  They bring valuable resources and new products to companies and consumers from Shanghai to Stuttgart.  The countries of the region are embracing a rules-based order for international trade.  Seven out of ten CAREC countries have joined the World Trade Organization.

The United States wants a more vibrant, connected region.  A connected Central Asia, with dynamic and growing economies, would benefit the world economy and therefore all of us.  Our interest is in ensuring that CAREC’s projects are coordinated regionally, and implemented according to global standards for transparency, while factoring in social and environmental considerations.

Regional connectivity is also critical to our efforts in Afghanistan.  Afghanistan’s location offers it an opportunity to serve as a hub for regional energy and trade, through north-south links to Central Asia and South Asia, and through east-west routes to markets in China, the Caucasus, and Europe.  CAREC can play a vital role in connecting Afghanistan with its neighbors in ways that promote economic opportunities for the entire region, and support the goals established at October 4-5 Brussels Conference on financial support for Afghanistan.

In 2011, the State Department launched our New Silk Road initiative.  We work with the countries of Central Asia to develop regional energy markets, improve trade and transit routes, streamline customs and border crossings, and create new linkages between businesses and people.

Thanks to Secretary Kerry’s leadership, we also have created a new diplomatic platform with Central Asia, C5+1.  It had its second ministerial meeting in Washington in August.  The C5+1 countries agreed to launch several joint projects, including transportation corridors.  These efforts will help facilitate trade, improve productivity of transport, and strengthen competitiveness in the region.

These regional connectivity efforts will lead to economic growth, more jobs, and greater trade and investment opportunities.  The United States Government believes that economic development and security are mutually reinforcing.  A prosperous, stable, and secure Central Asia and broader region, with strong trade and cooperation with its neighbors, will be better able to address global challenges, including threats to security and violent extremism, environmental and economic disruptions.

The United States appreciates CAREC’s efforts to realize this vision.  We look forward to continued cooperation with all of our international partners to reach our common goals.

Thank you.