Senior officials of the governments of US, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan met in Washington for the Council Meeting of the US - Central Asia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). Afghanistan and Pakistan attended as observers.
Participants focused on expanding trade and creating a welcoming environment for business in order to facilitate regional private sector activity. Participants also examined trade, transit, and investment issues among the countries of the region. In addition, they discussed the importance of Central Asian countries meeting the eligibility criteria under the US Generalized System of Preferences, including protecting internationally recognized worker rights and providing adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights.
The sides discussed issues related to digital trade among Central Asian countries and the United States, noting that trade in digitally-enabled services supports broad-based economic growth and innovation across economies. Participants agreed to focus on ensuring the free flow of information across borders with a cohesive legal, regulatory, and policy environment characterized by openness, transparency, competition, and non-discrimination. They considered the importance of developing policies affecting digital trade based on stakeholder participation, predictability, evidence-based policymaking, and regulatory accountability.
As part of the TIFA engagement, the parties met in Working Groups focused on addressing intellectual property rights issues, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary measures. The Council noted that the Working Group on Women’s Economic Empowerment will have its initial meeting in early 2020.
The participants agreed that the meetings of the TIFA Council and Working Groups foster bilateral, regional, and global trade and investment opportunities in Central Asia. In particular, the sides recognized the importance of implementing the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement and international best practices in the development of standards and their use in regulations.
The United States continued to advocate for Afghanistan’s inclusion as a full TIFA participant, and this issue will remain a focus of the TIFA Council.
The parties agreed that the next meeting of the US - Central Asia TIFA Council would take place in late 2020 in the Central Asia region.