Britain and Kazakhstan: Our Relations Have Grown Stronger
The British ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary in Kazakhstan, Mr Paul Brummell, has answered our magazine’s questions.
Mr Ambassador, how do you assess the current economic relations between Britain and Kazakhstan?
Relations between our countries have definitely grown stronger. I believe that there are great prospects for the future development of the British-Kazakh trade and economic cooperation. This is proven by bilateral trade, which totalled $750m in 2005, up by 44% from a year earlier. In addition, Britain is now the third largest investor in Kazakhstan with 11% of the total foreign direct investment placed in the Kazakh economy ($5bn).
The vast energy resources in the Caspian Sea make Kazakhstan a promising market for British goods and services in developing oil and gas fields and creating the necessary infrastructure. At the moment, over 150 British companies and joint ventures with British involvement are operating in your country, including giants as BG, Shell and BP. And interest in the oil and gas sector is growing constantly. For example, the British engineering company AMEK has opened an office in Atyrau; the company is known throughout the world as a provider of technical services for oil and gas enterprises. Obviously, given the significant experience Britain has acquired while developing the North Sea oil fields, the energy sector will continue to remain an important sphere for cooperation between our countries.
However, our partnership is not just limited to this. Britain is ready to actively assist in fulfilling Kazakhstan’s plans to diversify its economy. In particular, BAE Systems was involved in setting up the Air Astana company and now owns a 49% stake in it. The company acquired a new Airbus-320 aircraft in 2006, and intends to add further four aircraft to its fleet by the end of the year.
Other sectors where British companies are actively operating are the mining of gold and precious metals. For example, the Hambledon Mining company is currently developing the Sekisovskoye gold mine in eastern Kazakhstan.
The Pilkington Glass company and the Investment Fund of Kazakhstan signed an agreement last year to build a glass plant in Kyzylorda Region. The successful implementation of this project will enable Kazakhstan to become an exporter of this product.
Many of our companies are working in financial, legal and education services.
What bilateral documents or events do you think are important for developing relations between the two countries?
Since Kazakhstan obtained its independence the two countries have signed many agreements, which have helped establish and strengthen business cooperation and improve the investment climate. I can single out the double taxation avoidance agreement, the investment protection agreement and the interdepartmental documents on using airspace.
The memorandum of understanding in the energy sphere was signed in June 2005. It reflected the growing interest in Kazakhstan as an energy producer and consumer and stressed the significance of this sector for the country’s economic development in the long-term future.
Under the agreement to develop economic relations, signed in 1995, the Kazakh-British Trade and Industrial Council was set up to boost bilateral trade relations and attract British investment to your country. A scheduled meeting of this council, co-chaired by the president of BG, Charles Bland, and Kazakh Industry and Trade Minister Vladimir Shkolnik, will be held in London this autumn. The British trade and investment mission (UKTI) operating in western Kazakhstan also helps strengthen bilateral economic relations. This organisation set up the Kazakhstan Oil and Gas Interest Group (KOGIG UK), which groups the British companies that are operating in the country’s oil and gas sector.
The close relations established at regional levels are proven by the cooperation memoranda signed by the heads of three western Kazakh regions and the mayor of Aberdeen, Scotland’s oil centre.
What do you think about the prospect of Kazakhstan joining the WTO and the world’s 50 most competitive countries?
Britain fully backs these initiatives. It is an excellent desire to have and the issue is not about the aim but rather about whether Kazakhstan is ready to assume the necessary obligations. The achievement of these tough goals will demand certain progress in the economy – improving transparency, reducing corruption and so on. An important factor will be further steps to improve the investment climate, create conditions for foreign investment and improve the law. Let me note that Britain hailed Kazakhstan’s move to join British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
I believe that Kazakhstan is now confident about its role in the international arena and wants as many as possible people to know about the country.
Could you tell us about our cooperation in education, culture and the arts?
The British embassy is actively working in this field. And the British Council, which is involved in the Bolashak programme, is helping a lot. We aim for as many as possible students go to Britain to study under this programme. For example, 360 Kazakh students will go to study at British universities this autumn. I hope that they will return with new knowledge and will apply it in their own careers and for the good of their country.
In addition, each year the embassy selects hopefuls under the Chevening education programme sponsored by the British Foreign Office. In order to help people maintain contacts with the alumni of British universities, the embassy helped to set up the Club of British Alumni and it now has more than 500 members.
In general, I would like to say that Kazakhstan pays particular attention to developing human resources, especially young people, and this is very good.
The Kazakh-British Technical University (KBTU) plays a special role in the cooperation between our countries. The university was set up under an agreement signed by Tony Blair and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. In this project we partnered in two spheres – energy and education. We are glad that the KBTU is now regarded as one of the best universities in Kazakhstan.
Under the master’s programme, the KBTU has signed a partnership agreement with four British universities and it has set up two education programmes with the London School of Economics, under which graduates will receive British degrees upon graduation. A number of major British companies are also sponsoring this university.
The level of education of young Kazakhs, their knowledge of English and interest in other countries mean that there are positive trends and an economic and social breakthrough in Kazakhstan and that it is a leader in the Central Asian region.
As for culture and the arts, I can say that the British public showed a significant amount of interest in director Valdemar Zhunushek’s documentary about modern Kazakhstan, which was screened in the UK.
In addition, the Magic Pencil exhibition of illustrations of children’s books made by British artists travelled in a number of Kazakh towns during spring 2006.
Interviewed by Gulmira Arbabaeva
Paul Brummell was born on 28 August 1965. He graduated from St Albans school, St Catherine’s College and Cambridge University with a MA in Geography. He has been working as a diplomat since 1987. Before working in Kazakhstan, he served as an ambassador to Turkmenistan.
Step on the Gas! Prospects for the Kazakh Gas Sector Sergey Smirnov
Rules vs. Regulations.Petroleum Industry Procurement Requirements Joel Benjamin, Raushan? Chaltabayeva
Astrum Is a New Instrument for Your Business Sergey Shvalov
FantASIA Engineering: High-level Integrated Engineering Vyacheslav Medvedev
Kazpolimerizolyator: Made in Kazakhstan Lyubov Makarova
Sun, Air and Water…Alternatives to Traditional Power-engineering in Kazakhstan Gennady Doroshin, Peter Dixon
Copyright Protection:Why Kazakhstan is no longer included in List 301 Gulmira Arbabaeva
Intellectual Property: What You Need to Know Aizhan Yessergepova