By Roy Lie Atjam.
On the 9th April 2021 in Brussels, the Republic of Uzbekistan has been awarded the status of a beneficiary country of the EU’s General System of Preferences Plus GSP+. In order to mark this joyous occasion, a press conference with the participation of the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Trade and the EU Delegation in Uzbekistan was held to commemorate this event in Tashkent.
The head of the EU delegation to Uzbekistan, Charlotte Adrian, noted that:-
“The application of the GSP + system of preferences in relation to Uzbekistan is as timely as possible, especially during the country’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. This is also a good incentive for the further implementation of reforms in Uzbekistan related to the implementation of 27 major international conventions on the environment, human and labor rights, as well as good governance.”
This is the main requirement of the European side for the provision of GSP+. Interestingly, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has since released scores of political prisoners and independent media activity has been improved. Attention has also been given to limit forced labor in the cotton fields. The fact that the Republic of Uzbekistan has applied for the EU’s GSP+ is a clear indication of president Mirziyoyev’s ambition to reform the country’s economic structures and to construct the “new Uzbekistan”
Uzbekistan began to put into motion what was needed to obtain the status of a beneficiary country of the GSP+ in early 2020. After the completion of the internal approval process, Uzbekistan submitted an application to the European Commission for the “GSP+” status on 9th June 2020.
Prior to obtaining GSP+ status, Uzbekistan used the basic General System of preferences (GSP), under which the republic exported 3,000 items of goods to the EU countries without customs duties and 3,200 items of goods at reduced rates. Whereas the GSP+ provides for a significant expansion of commodity items for duty-free access. Uzbek producers and exporters will be able to enjoy unilateral tariff preferences when exporting their goods to the European market. At the same time, the number of commodity items that can be exported duty-free to the EU countries can estimate up to 6,200 commodities.
The textile industry alone will make it possible to increase exports of products of approximately $ 300 million per annum. It is understood that Uzbekistan is seeking to join the World Trade Organization.
The Ambassador of Uzbekistan in Benelux countries, Mr Dilyor Khakimov has indicated in a very detailed interview that for Uzbekistan, Europe has traditionally been a source of advanced technologies, knowledge, investment, and innovation in the economy, as well as an important partner in the formation and strengthening of democratic institutions. The development of parliamentarism and civil society, the principles of a market economy, key sectors of public life, health, education as well as many other areas.
When asked how much Europe is aware of the reforms in Uzbekistan, Khakimov responded that in 2020, despite the severe restrictions associated with the pandemic, the Embassy of Uzbekistan in the Benelux countries held more than 55 information events. This included briefings, round tables, conferences, presentations, both in offline and online formats, during which information was provided on various aspects of the reforms being implemented in the republic. And this is only through one diplomatic mission. He further mentioned that if the events organized by all the diplomatic missions of Uzbekistan in Europe were taken into account, it would be become very clear that the visibility of Uzbekistan in the information space of the European political establishment is very solid and the partners from the Old World are well aware of the processes taking place in our country.
Shell is implementing a project for the production and processing of natural gas from the “Mustakillik 25” field in the Surkhandaryaregion. Lummus Technology (formerly a McDermott division) is implementing a project on modernization the Shurtan Gas Chemical Complex and others.
A real success story was the project to build a super-modern greenhouse complex using Dutch technologies in the Khankinsky district of the Khorezm region. The total area of the greenhouse of the 4th generation is 6 hectares. By the way, all over the world the area of such greenhouses does not exceed 50 hectares, 6 of which are in Uzbekistan.
Despite the pandemic, the Embassy has organized a number of important bilateral visits during the year. So, in January, the delegation of Uzbekistan, consisting of representatives of the Presidential Administration and the Ministry of Agriculture, visited the Netherlands. During the visit of the delegation of the Ministry of Agriculture, meetings were organized at Plantlab and the world’s leading agricultural university – Wageningen University. A presentation of the potential of Uzbekistan in the field of agriculture was held in The Hague with the participation of representatives of more than 40 leading Dutch agricultural companies.
Regarding the WTO, the Ambassador went on to say that the issue of joining the World Trade Organization is also in the center of attention of the Head of State, and there is an order to intensify work on joining the WTO.
Brussels and The Hague are the world capitals of multilateral diplomacy. The Ambassador noted that both Brussels and The Hague represented very dynamic and unique poles of diplomatic work. Uzbekistan is a member of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is headquartered in The Hague. In March 2020, the Republic became a member of The Hague Conference on Private International Law. In addition, the issue of joining the Permanent Court of Arbitration is currently at the final stage of consideration.
The ambassador indicated that also that the country is interested in cooperation with such structures as Eurojust, which unites the judicial authorities of the EU countries, the European Institute of Public Administration, the OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities, and many others.
The interview concluded with the question asking what kind of work the embassy is doing to develop relations and cooperation with compatriots living in the Benelux countries. The Ambassador mentioned that the Embassy provides all possible support to their citizens. Among the most memorable cases, he personally would like to mention the Uzbek aerial acrobats Kristina Vorobyova and Rustem Osmanov, who were injured during a performance at the World Christmas Circus show in Amsterdam (the Netherlands) in January 2020. The diplomatic mission provided all-round assistance to their artists, and also ensured the arrival of K. Vorobyova’s mother in the Netherlands.
The diplomatic mission also provided much needed support and assistance to dozens of compatriots who were in a difficult situation due to the coronavirus pandemic. In particular, they were provided with financial support and assistance in departing on charter flights to Uzbekistan.
The GSP + scheme will offer broader opportunities to increase trade between the EU and Uzbekistan, as tariffs will be lifted on a number of important export commodities such as textiles, clothing and plastics. In spite of relative proximity to the EU market, the trade potential has not yet been fully tapped, as the EU is only seventh on the list of Uzbekistan’s export destinations.
The Uzbek Deputy PM Sardor Umurzakov is of good faith that GSP+ will give a powerful impetus to investors and the private sector, primarily from the EU countries, to the implementation of promising projects in Uzbekistan, as well as form a solid basis for diversification and swift development of trade and economic ties between Uzbekistan and the EU countries.
Kudos to Uzbekistan for the well-deserved success, so pleased to see you accomplishing great things.