On July 19, 2023, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia hosted the First Summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council and Central Asian countries, a significant step towards closer ties between the two regions.
The historic event discussed the development of interregional cooperation in political, trade-economic, and cultural-humanitarian areas.
President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, in his address to the summit, highlighted several key aspects of the relationship, including economic cooperation.
He particularly emphasized the importance of trade and transport connectivity. He proposed the study of the possibility of a multilateral trade agreement, which includes the introduction of a free trade regime, harmonizing technical regulations, and developing electronic commerce.
Mirziyoyev also suggested favorable tariffs on the Middle Corridor to maximize its potential, increased direct flights through targeted subsidies, and the active use of the opportunities of existing multimodal corridors through Afghanistan.
The leader of Uzbekistan also called for the Gulf countries to take part in the strategic project to construct the Trans-Afghan Railway. This highway could provide the most convenient way of connecting Central Asia and the Gulf region. According to experts, using this pathway would reduce the delivery time of goods from Uzbekistan to the ports of the Indian Ocean from one month to three to five days, as well as reduce the cost of transporting one container by about three times. This would remove barriers to trade between Central Asian countries and Arab states, creating favorable conditions for attracting foreign investment and developing the region’s manufacturing sectors.
In addition, there is a proposal for cooperation in ensuring food security. The Head of the state expressed readiness to introduce effective mechanisms for supplying high-quality organic agricultural products to the Gulf countries.
The implementation of this proposal would give Uzbekistan and regional producers the chance to open new markets and significantly expand their business horizons. At the same time, it would contribute to a significant diversification of supply sources for the Arab States, which currently imports up to 85% of food products.
The summit reaffirmed the importance of strengthening economic ties between the regions and mutual support in achieving common goals.
The initiatives put forward have become the basis for future cooperation, reflecting the desire to strengthen relations and expand constructive dialogue in Central Asia and the Arab States of the Gulf.
It is important to emphasize that these efforts create a favorable environment for long-term partnership and mutual benefit, confirming the importance of interregional ties in achieving sustainable and harmonious development.
Leading Researcher at the International Institute of Central Asia