Great Britain and Kazakhstan: Partnership for the Sake of Peace and Prosperity
This Interview for our magazine has been given the Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the Republic of Kazakhstan, Mr. Richard Lewington
What are strategic interests of Britain in Kazakhstan and the Central Asian Region?
Kazakhstan is important to Britain for many reasons. British energy companies have invested heavily in Kazakhstan’s oil and gas reserves, which could make Kazakhstan a producer of regional, if not world-wide, significance in the future. Britain is also working in partnership with Kazakhstan to develop our bilateral political relations, which are in a very good shape. Events since 11th September have illustrated the importance of our dialogue with Kazakhstan, which is a focus of political and multi-ethnic stability in a region, which has seen recent warfare and turmoil.
Would you, please, tell about trade and economic co-operation between Britain and Kazakhstan. Which fields are the most prospective for the economic co-operation between our countries? Which fields still have potential for co-operation?
British companies are involved in a range of activities in Kazakhstan, but because of our expertise in the oil and gas sector this is where most co-operation is focused. To support this growing sector a great deal of infrastructure will need to be put in place in Kazakhstan; there should be opportunities for investment or co-operation in these areas, such as include transportation and communication, oil and gas processing and distribution, water and energy supplies, education and training etc.
In June, the Lord Mayor of London will be visiting Kazakhstan. Nowadays, the Lord Mayor has responsibility to promote internationally the financial expertise of the City of London. He will bring a delegation with him from major financial institutions in London and they will be holding presentations in Almaty and Astana, looking at the development of pensions, banking, insurance and financing for major state organisations.
What are the biggest joint projects that are being implemented at the present time or are to be implemented in the near future?
BG International is deeply involved in the development of Karachaganak. BG International is also a shareholder in the Kashagan project, along with Shell. British Aerospace Systems are shareholders in the new airline, Air Astana, which will be flying soon between Almaty, Astana and Atyrau.
How do you find the investment climate in Kazakhstan compared to other CIS countries? What needs to be done to enhance activity of British companies in our country?
When companies consider investments overseas they have to look at many factors, including the economic situation, political stability, the legal framework, cost and availability of suitable labour and the local business environment they also need to make a return at their investment, which reflects properly the degree of risk. Kazakhstan is making considerable progress in all these areas, with our support. For example, the Chairman of the Supreme Court visited Britain in February to see for himself the process of legal reforms and accountability. I know that current and potential investors have some concerns about the draft Investment Law, primarily relating to the “stability clause” and the right to go to international arbitration. Sanctity of contract is also of prime importance to an investor. This law has been under consideration for a long time. It will be annual for Kazakhstan to get this right. The recent public reassurance by Mr Tokaev, Secretary of State and Foreign Minister, that existing oil and gas contracts will not be renegotiated will reassure investors. Potential British investors will be looking at all these factors.
How do you find the future of investments growth under condition of stabilisation of the political situation in the region?
More attention has focused on Kazakhstan in recent months because of its support for the Coalition against terrorism, and the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan. It is difficult to predict but I hope that continuing political stability in Kazakhstan and the presence of major oil and gas reserves should lead to more investment.
Has the position of British business circles towards development of business in Kazakhstan changed after the 11 September?
I am glad to say that British business is more aware of Kazakhstan now. We deal with many enquiries every day asking for contacts or information on different products. My staff and I spend a lot of our time travelling in Kazakhstan’s oblasts, learning a lot the economic situation and studying opportunities for co-operation. Only last week I spent four days in Aktobe and next week one of my staff will be at the Atyrau oil and gas exhibition. We also assist Kazakh companies looking for British partners. Please have a look at our web-site www.tradeuk.com.
What are the prospects for co-operation in humanitarian fields (science, culture, education)?
Some time ago, President Nazarbaev proposed the setting up a Kazakh - British Technical University in Almaty. We are giving this our full support. This is not an overnight activity, but needs careful planning and a well-prepared business plan. I am pleased to say that specialists from the British Council are co-operating closely with the university authorities on all this.
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