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Wednesday, October 24th, 2018

Speech by Bakytzhan Sagintayev at the WTO Forum “Trade and Investment Facilitation: “The Eurasian Perspectives”

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Dear Mr. Azevedo! Dear Forum participants!

I am glad to welcome you to Astana! I would like to express my special gratitude to you, Mr. Azevedo, for participating at the High-level Forum, as well as to the WTO Secretariat and the Friends of Investment Facilitation for Development for co-organizing this important event.

The Government of Kazakhstan fully supports the new initiative of the WTO on investment facilitation. Improvement of the investment climate is a key priority for us.

In only the last 10 years, around $250 billion of foreign direct investments were attracted to the various sectors of Kazakhstan’s economy.

In 2017, FDI inflow amounted to nearly $21 billion and a quarter of this volume has been directed to the manufacturing industry. Overall, 50 percent of all foreign investments were attracted to non-commodities sectors. This positive dynamic is being maintained over this year. In the first half of 2018, agreements on the implementation of 69 new projects were reached with large investors, including 10 transnational companies from China, Turkey, the USA, the United Kingdom and the European Union.

To date, about 30 transnational companies such as Toyota, Heidelberg, General Electric, Danone, Alstom and others are already operating in Kazakhstan.

Our country is ranked first for investment climate in Central Asia, and more than 70 percent of Central Asian investments are attributable to Kazakhstan.

In order to improve the investment climate, our country consistently implements reforms, encourages an open dialogue and cooperation with investors and develops infrastructure to attract investments.

I will point out just one figure. Over the past 4 years, we have implemented 52 reforms in areas such as tax and customs administration, and support for business, etc. Thus, it equates to an average of 13 reforms per year.

One example is the reform on deregulation and significant reduction of administrative burdens on businesses. In May this year, the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a legislative package seeking to improve the business climate, containing more than one thousand amendments to 14 codes and 109 laws. Oversight functions were reduced by 30 percent and the number of licensing requirements by 56 percent. Almost a thousand inspection bodies have been abolished.

New tax and customs regimes in line with advanced international standards were put into effect. In the Tax Code, tax burdens have been optimized and preference schemes have been proposed. The new Customs Code ensures transparency of procedures and introduces electronic declaration that provides an automated custom clearance of goods.

The procedures for planning of the PPP project have been simplified and all interested investors are given an opportunity to get access to the common database of successfully implemented PPP projects.

The migration and labor legislation have been improved, the procedure for attracting foreign labor has been simplified.

Since 2016 the One Stop Shop principle has been available to all investors and corresponding regional offices have been functioning in all 17 regions of the country.

The Foreign Investors Council chaired by the President of Kazakhstan, the Council on Improvement of Investment Climate under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister, as well as investment and business ombudsman institutions were established over the past 20 years in order to provide a dialogue platform with investors.

Thus, as of today, the investment and business climate have been strengthened institutionally. New opportunities and privileges provided to investors have been secured legislatively.

Due to Kazakhstan’s economic integration, investors can benefit by having access to the largest markets.

In 2015, Kazakhstan and the EU signed an Agreement on Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation, which provides a basis for creating favourable and non-discriminatory conditions for investments into manufacturing sectors of the economy.

Kazakhstan is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union. The advantage of the Union is a single market without customs borders with a volume of about $4 trillion and customers comprising more than 180 million people.

Due to favourable geographical location, neighbouring with states such as Russia, China and Central Asian countries, Kazakhstan presents a comfortable central platform with access to the closest growing markets with customers of more than 1.6 billion people.

Kazakhstan’s membership in the Union is therefore an effective instrument for integration into the system of world trade relations. Pertinently, Free Trade Agreements between the Union and Vietnam has been in enforce since 2016.

In May 2018, the Agreement on Trade and Economic Cooperation with China and Free Trade Agreement with Iran were signed. Moreover, persistent efforts are being made to expand trade and economic cooperation with large countries such as Egypt, Israel, Serbia, and Singapore.

Within the WTO and Eurasian Economic Union, Kazakhstan has undertaken commitments on providing transparency of licensing procedures and requirements in service sectors. Today, more than half of the country’s GDP is attributable to the service sector. Meantime, under the WTO, Kazakhstan guarantees non-discriminatory conditions for access to the service market for foreign companies and provides a favourable climate for foreign investors in all key service sectors, including transportation, construction, trade, and energy sectors.

Thus, the main principles of the WTO initiative on Investment Facilitation are fully implemented by Kazakhstan as in accordance with international obligations under the WTO and the Eurasian Economic Union membership so at the national level through implementation of successive reforms on improvement of the investment climate.

In light of that, the Government of Kazakhstan believes that it is important to conduct further structural discussions on investment facilitation at the multilateral level, in particular within the WTO. We encourage WTO members to join the WTO Informal Dialogue within which an exchange on national experiences for attracting investments takes place. We hope that this initiative will confirm the relevance of the WTO to the modern world, and will contribute to the development of international trade, as a result, fostering growth of the global economy.

In conclusion, I would like to thank all WTO Members and Mr. Azevedo for their high-level trust in Kazakhstan and for their support of our bid to host the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference in June 2020 in Astana. Kazakhstan stands ready to make a constructive contribution to the discussions of all issues on the WTO agenda in order to ensure substantive results of the Ministerial Conference.

I wish all Forum participants to have productive, meaningful discussions. I am confident that the High-Level Forum will be successful and will achieve its goal.

Thank you for your attention!

Source: The Prime Minister of Kazakhstan

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