ATHENS – Kazakhstan is determined to become a focal point of East-West trade between China and Europe, the Central Asian nation’s Deputy Foreign Minister Roman Vassilenko told a gathering of global business leaders in Athens on Monday.
At a conference on economic cooperation between the EU, China and the Eurasian Economic Union, Vassilenko said boosting transportation infrastructure to “ensure the connectivity of our country and the region with the rest of the world” was a priority for Kazakhstan.
“Our aim is to enhance our own transport and transit capabilities, stimulate the growth of trade flows across the country and ensure our competitiveness in the global services market,” Vassilenko told the conference organized by the British weekly The Economist.
He said that not only would trade between East and West increase, but employment and prosperity would be generated along the trade route as well as throughout the world.
Thanks to projects such as the New Silk Road or the Eurasian Economic Union, many of the commercial transit routes pass through Kazakhstan, he noted.
“This is why Kazakhstan has been actively implementing its Nurly Zhol program,” Vassilenko said in reference to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s $9 billion economic stimulus program for the modernization of roads, railways and ports, among others projects.
Nurly Zhol, he added, “is designed to turn Kazakhstan into a key Eurasian transport and logistics hub, connecting the North, South, West and East.”
Vassilenko said that by the end of the year, Kazakhstan would have more than 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) of new railway networks and 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) of new roads, “including the Western China – Western Europe highway.”
Merchandise traffic multiplied by 100 between 2011-2016, and 25 large freight trains currently traverse the country every year on their route from China to Europe, a trend that will continue to increase exponentially, he said.
“Kazakhstan will continue to work to improve the legal framework and conditions for the transportation of passengers and goods across Kazakhstan and Central Asia. Our goal is to become one of the top 40 countries with the best logistics climate by 2020,” he said.