A new U.S. initiative aims to help countries in Central Asia expand their presence in the global economy as part of a larger strategy to decrease economic dependence on China and Russia.
According to the State Department, the Economic Resilience Initiative in Central Asia was launched in September 2022 “to catalyze transformative economic growth across Central Asia in the wake of Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression in Ukraine.” An article in The Diplomat notes that Central Asia borders “what the U.S. considers its immediate challenge – Russia,” which is perhaps the region’s top historical trading partner but is currently subject to a litany of international sanctions, as well as what the U.S. considers “the great challenge of the future – China,” which has engaged Central Asia and other economically marginalized countries as part of its Belt and Road Initiative seeking to bolster its trade network against Western influences.
One goal of ERICEN is to expand alternative trade routes, likely meaning those that minimize exposure to China and Russia. To foster this effort the U.S. intends to help regional countries increase their shipping capacity, enhance infrastructure along trans-Caspian trade routes, and resolve logistics bottlenecks by improving critical port, rail, and maritime logistics hubs.
The U.S. also wants to facilitate the movement of Western multinational companies to Central Asia and help regional companies in key sectors with growth potential to access new markets. To help make Central Asia a more attractive place to do business and better integrate it into regional and global value chains, work under ERICEN will include enhancing the cyber security of private-sector companies, expanding English-language education for young professionals, and training workers in entrepreneurship and high-demand skills.
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