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Embassy Emphasizes Afghanistan’s Economic Role at U.S. Dept of Commerce (BISNIS) Conference

‘Business Opportunities in Afghanistan and Central Asia,’ was the name of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Business Information Service for the Newly Independent States (BISNIS) annual Conference held on April 10. The conference presented participants with in-depth analysis of business opportunities in Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Introductory remarks were made by Franklin Lavin, Under Secretary for International Trade, U.S. Department of Commerce; Philip de Leon, Director of BISNIS; and Israel Hernandez, Assistant Secretary for Trade Promotion and Director General of the U.S and Foreign Commercial Service.


Political Counselor Masood Aziz led the participants in a discussion of business and investment opportunities in Afghanistan, as well as the country’s key economic role as a trade hub and transit point. He emphasized Afghanistan’s location at the point where all four of the most populous and resource-rich regions in the world converge: Central Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and the Far East. “This strategic location provides not only Afghanistan, but the world unique investment opportunities.”

“For the first time in hundreds of years, there is the very real prospect of establishing strong economic ties that extend across this vast region,” he explained. An economically integrated regional market, with Afghanistan as the pivot point, would include nearly half the world’s population, a substantial share of the world’s energy supplies and provide a foundation to pursue sustainable economic gains. Aziz encouraged the conference participants to take advantage of Afghanistan’s business-friendly investment climate. “Afghanistan is open for business,” said Aziz. “Because the actual world economic center is shifting from the Western World to South and Central Asia, savvy investors are looking at the region with a desire to be first.” Aziz announced that President Karzai had just signed the joining of Afghanistan into to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). He listed the key reasons for investors to be interested in Afghanistan: improved legal and institutional framework for investment, a vital central location in the region, one of the lowest tax rates in the region, rapid economic growth, strong support from international partners, improving physical infrastructure, and an available and motivated workforce. Current investment opportunities include the minerals sector, cement, construction materials, carpets, textiles, food processing and agri-business, as well as cold storage, transport and insurance services.

Aziz mentioned that while Afghanistan is sometimes perceived as a backwater in terms of natural resource, a 2006 US Geological Survey indicated that natural resources were significantly greater than previously understood. Northern Afghanistan holds 18 times the oil and triple the natural gas resources previously thought with over 15.6 tcf of natural gas and possibly up to 36.5 tcf and up to 3.6 billion barrels of oil in the Amu Darya Basin only. Further, USGS has not yet assessed all areas in the basin and may well discover additional reserves in other areas.

As a final thought, Aziz said that today’s business opportunities in Afghanistan need to be seen in global context.  “It is now a recognized fact that Afghanistan is sitting right in the middle of the most significant global economic expansion in recent history,” he said. With the combined GDP of China and India projected to be $24 billion—double that of the U.S.—by 2030, the region is in the midst of an unprecedented historical moment. “In this sense, and because Afghanistan is the very bridge between the insatiable demand of one area and the resource availability of another, it is central to the achievement of this inescapable and changing world power polarity. I leave it to those who understand business opportunity better to figure out a way to turn this momentous potential into an equally unprecedented profit.”

Other participants included Fred Starr, Chairman of the Central Asia Caucasus Institute, John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies; Masood Aziz, Counselor, Embassy of Afghanistan; Abdujabbor Shirinov, Ambassador of Tajikistan; Bakhtier Ibragimov, Deputy Chief of Missions, Uzbekistan; Rex E. Pingle, President & CEO, PMD International; Dan Stein, U.S. Trade and Development Agency Eurasia Regional Director; Edward M. Smith, former Chief of Staff for the Afghanistan Reconstruction Group (ARG) in Kabul; Robert Mosbacher, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer, Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC); Zamira Sydykova, Ambassador of Kyrgyzstan; Meret Orazov, Ambassador of Turkmenistan; Mr. Talgat Kaliev, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Kazakhstan; and Jack Gehring, Director, International Services Division, Caterpillar, Inc.

For more information please see the BISNIS website by clicking HERE

For VIDEO footage of Counselor Aziz's remarks, please click HERE

For VIDEO footage of the entire event, please click HERE


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