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Inaugural B5+1 Forum launched to boost regional trade and investment

Almaty inaugural venue highlights Kazakhstan's leading role in fostering regional cooperation

Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE)
The first panel, moderated by Marsha McGraw Olive, explored strategies for enhancing economic integration in Central Asia. Almaty, Kazakhstan, March 14, 2024.

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On March 13-15, government policymakers, business leaders, experts, and investors from C5+1 countries inaugurated the first-ever Business 5+1 (B5+1) Forum which was held in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Business 5+1 (B5+1) is the public-private business dialogue platform between the five Central Asian states (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) and the United States. The first of its kind in Central Asia, B5+1 is envisioned as the private-sector-led counterpart to the C5+1, the diplomatic platform between the same governments founded in 2015.

The inaugural Forum brought together more than 250 participants from ten countries for targeted panel discussions on barriers to doing business and possible solutions, as well as side events that tackled complex issues such as artificial intelligence and the banking sector’s access to the international wire system.

On September 21, 2023, the Heads of State of C5+1 affirmed in their Joint Statement their commitment to the establishment of B5+1 in order to “accelerate regional cooperation and connectivity [and]… advance efforts to create a more favorable business environment for U.S. private sector trade and investment in Central Asia.”

B5+1 aims to fulfill these commitments by bringing together the leading voices of business from each of the Central Asian states and facilitating an open discussion on the primary factors standing in their way of building business and investment connections with each other, with the United States, and with the global economy. As such, the ultimate goal of B5+1 is to foster trade, investment, and economic integration in Central Asia so that the region may become a destination of its own.

CIPE assumed lead role in organizing this B5+1 Forum

The Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) is a Washington-based global organization that works to strengthen democracy and build competitive markets in many of the world’s most challenging environments. Working alongside local partners and tomorrow’s leaders, CIPE advances the voice of business in policy making, promotes opportunity, and develops resilient and inclusive economies. CIPE currently operates in more than one hundred countries, with programs that support democratic governance, business advocacy, enterprise eco-systems, trade, anti-corruption, and women’s economic empowerment.

B5+1 boosts partnership in regional prosperity

B5+1 was organized through CIPE’s “IBECA” Program – Improving the Business Environment in Central Asia, and CIPE developed an online platform designed to support the event and facilitate ongoing work after the Forum:  https://www.cipe.org/projects/b51-forum

Describing the B5+1 Forum, CIPE Executive Director Andrew Wilson said, “This is a major step toward opening markets and improving the business climate, both regionally and globally.” He further explained “CIPE is proud to be a convener of the Forum and to contribute to this important moment.”

The B5+1 Forum is here to stay

The joint communique proposed that the B5+1 Forum be convened annually, with sponsorship rotated among the member countries.

Working groups identified five priority sectors as likely to be most attractive to international investors and critical for developing regional markets: transport and logistics, agribusiness, e-commerce, tourism, green and renewable energy, and agribusiness.

For its part, the U.S. State Department issued a “big picture” media note regarding the event on March 15:

“The Governments of the United States, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan joined private sector representatives in the inaugural B5+1 Forum in Almaty, Kazakhstan, from March 13-15, 2024.

Announced by US President Joe Biden during the inaugural C5+1 Summit in September 2023 and highlighted in the corresponding New York Declaration, the B5+1 is the private-sector-led counterpart to the C5+1 – the diplomatic platform among the five Central Asian governments plus the United States. With the “B” standing for business, the B5+1 platform facilitates public-private sector dialogue to foster enhanced U.S.-Central Asia economic partnership. The U.S. delegation was led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Central Asian Affairs John Mark Pommersheim and National Security Council Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Russia and Central Asia Nicholas Berliner.

During the B5+1 Forum, participants engaged in a series of discussions regarding economic opportunities for Central Asian and U.S. businesses. They offered priority recommendations for improving the business operating environment in Central Asia and advancing regional economic integration, competitive markets, and foreign investment to the region. With support from the U.S. Department of State, the Center for International Private Enterprise will continue to lead B5+1 activities in pursuit of sustainable and inclusive economic growth in Central Asia.”

 

 

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CEO/Editor-in-Chief.  Former US diplomat with previous assignments in Eastern Europe, the UN, SE Asia, Greece, across the Balkans, as well as Washington DC.

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