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Meeting Ambassador Hoagland & Mazhilis Speaker Mukhamedzhanov

Friday, January 16, 2009
Astana, Kazakhstan

Speaker Mukhamedzhanov:  Today it’s in the newspapers that a student from a university in Kazakhstan [inaudible] will attend the inauguration ceremony.
The meeting takes place at a very important stage of the development of the strategic partnership between our two countries: the transition of the [inaudible] administration.  With the administration of Obama coming to power, Kazakhstan hopes that relations will continue and that foreign policy will continue in Central Asia in general and in Kazakhstan in particular.  We are sure that the dialogue between Presidents Nazarbayev and Bush, which reflects the level of trust between our two countries, will continue its development in the new administration.
An example of the mutually beneficial relations and dialogue between the two countries is the U.S. support to Kazakhstan [inaudible] change.  The world community recognizes Kazakhstan’s achievements in all dimensions of organization, including the humanitarian aspect.  I am sure that Mr. Ambassador knows that at the end of last year, the [inaudible] approved amendments in the [media] law, election law, and political parties law, and the [inaudible] in government.  Those amendments bring serious changes to Kazakhstan’s democracy, moving the country further to the standards of democracy and improving its legislation in compliance with international standards.
These are the same purposes for which both use the path to Europe program.  That program will bring Kazakhstan to wider use of European standards and the economic and political development this portends.
I would like to take this opportunity and inform you that this coming May, the political faction of [inaudible] in [inaudible] will hold an international conference here in [inaudible].  Kazakhstan: Modern Kazakhstan and the Path to Europe.  We hope that our American counterparts can participate in this conference.
We recognize that over the last years, the parliamentary component in our bilateral relations have also developed significantly.  I can mention here participation of a delegation of the United States Congress and the parliamentary assembly of OSCE in Astana last summer.  The recent visit of a delegation of the [inaudible] in November to the United States, where they had very important meetings at various levels in the Congress and the Senate of the United States and with American politicians.  We welcome the establishment of a group of friends of Kazakhstan in the Congress of the United States.  In return, I should say we have a group cooperating with the United States Congress that has 30 parliamentarians.  That membership of 30 parliamentarians is almost one-third of the whole chamber, which speaks to the high level of interest in the Congress shown by our parliamentarians.
I should also mention here participation of American congressmen and senators in observation of elections of the President and the parliament here in Kazakhstan and our parliamentarians’ visit to the United States to watch elections of the President.
The United States is our big trade and economic partner.  The overall trade turnover exceeds $2 billion.  The amount of direct investment from the United States into companies in Kazakhstan is about $17 billion, which is 23.5 percent of the total amount of investments in Kazakhstan’s economy.  We’re happy to see these developments, but we would like to see more investment going to the regional level of the economy and see more investment by American companies made in long extraction, not oil producing areas.
In this regard, a big role could be played by projects like public/private partnership of [inaudible], which was signed last year.
Kazakhstan, you must have heard about the Bolashak Program, which Kazakhstan passed 10 or 15 years ago.  We’re very proud of that program because the President signed a decree beginning that program at a very difficult time for the economy of Kazakhstan.  We had gas resources to pay salaries and pensions, but Kazakhstan’s economy was going through collapse after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Now we have thousands of students who study in universities around the world, and over 700 students study in American universities, and they are sort of a golden bridge that will serve to strengthen relations between the two countries.
Since our two countries managed to develop this very strong dialogue, let’s turn our meeting into a dialogue too, and I would like to give the floor to you.
Ambassador Hoagland:  Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
First, thank you very much for your kind words about our new President-elect, Barack Obama.  You recall that soon after his election, one of the first calls that he made to world leaders in the first group [of calls] was President Nazarbayev.  Both President-elect Obama and President Nazarbayev told each other that they plan to continue to build and to strengthen the relationship between our two countries.
I am absolutely certain that Kazakhstan will continue to gain high interest in the United States because of its world leadership—a s you mentioned, chairmanship of the OSCE in 2010, chairmanship of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in 2011, many international conferences.  Just in the last two weeks, we had two very high-level visitors from the United States to Kazakhstan.  First was the United States Special Ambassador to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and just within the last few days, the commanding general of the U.S. Central Command, probably the most important general in the United States, David Patraeus.
I am sure that these kinds of high-level visits will continue, and we’ll probably see many more than we have seen in the past.  It will keep me very busy, but that’s my job.
I want to thank you, sir, for your leadership in helping to pass the amendments to the election, political party and mass media law.  Thank you.
We understand that democracy is a process, and we see the passage of these amendments as a step forward in Kazakhstan’s democratic progress.  But of course, process means there’s always another step to take, and we will be very pleased to work with Kazakhstan on these next steps.
I wanted to make a comment also about investment.  First, you mentioned the public/private economic partnership initiative that Prime Minister Masimov and the government have agreed to between our two countries.  I assure you we take this very seriously.  In fact, within the last two weeks I personally have had four meetings to make sure that we are moving forward with this, and I look forward to discussing this with the Prime Minister at the earliest possibility.
Something else that will help create the conditions for increased investment, including beyond the extractive sector, as you said, will be Kazakhstan’s membership in the World Trade Organization.  This also is something we support strongly and take very seriously.  I have had meetings here with Vice Minister Zhanar Aitzhanova, who is responsible for WTO, and we have agreed to increase the speed of the process.  The Mazhilis (parliament) will play a very important role in this process because WTO accession requires the amendment of many kinds of economic laws to meet WTO standards.
So I look forward to working with you and the parliament to help move this process as quickly as possible.
I’m very pleased you mentioned the Bolashak program.  It’s something that I know very well.  I think it is one of the most important achievements of Kazakhstan in the last 17 years.  Education is really the foundation of development, and even during difficult economic periods, Kazakhstan never waivered on providing world standard education for its young people.
There are two areas where I hope we can cooperate very well and quickly.   First is the ratification of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Agreement.  I understand that this is almost finished.  It’s just a question of correcting some of the grammar in the document, and then we can move forward.
The other area that I would ask for your parliament to pay attention is anti-money laundering and counterterrorism finance legislation.  I know that parliament began to work on this legislation in the year 2006.  But then your side asked for a pause because of amnesty for property legalization.  This is also something that’ extremely important for meeting international standards. 
I think you gave me a very good idea here because you were explaining to me the international conference for the Path to Europe.  But as part of the path to Europe, I would hope that your parliament will be able to move forward with this anti-money laundering legislation because that also is part of European policy.
Finally, for exchanges between our members of parliament, I tell you that I have always told both our House of Representatives and our Senators that as the American Ambassador I welcomed their visits to Kazakhstan.  I know your members of parliament had a good visit to the United States in November, and I’m very pleased about that.  I look forward to more visits on both sides, both ways.
Speaker Mukhamedzhanov:  Sometime in the past, America it seemed was a country located very far away, but today the closeness of our points of view on a number of world and regional problems and good cooperation that we have managed to develop between the countries have brought our countries very close together.
Ambassador Hoagland:  It’s still very far apart by kilometers, but in mutual interests we’re very close.
Speaker Mukhamedzhanov:  We know you, Mr. Ambassador, as a very experienced diplomat and a very serious politician, and we are sure that your work here in this very important post will serve the interest of deepening relations between the two countries, and we hope to see your support of Kazakhstan’s efforts made in the area of regional integration, which is a very important part of the foreign policy of the country.
We also want to see progress made in removing some problems we have in certification and in removing tax amendments restrictions—an issue that our President and Congress have already raised a number of times.
Kazakhstan and the United States have a very developed legal basis, legal foundation, but we would like to see it expand further.  Kazakhstan is interested in working on the mutual legal assistance treaty, which will serve to further develop confidence between Kazakhstan and the United States.
The [inaudible] ratification of CTR, I think it’s an agreement on the destruction of missiles of [inaudible] mechanisms, ballistic rockets, and ballistic missiles, which was signed in December 2007.  We just received it yesterday.  We will expedite the processing.  I don’t see any obstacles, any difficulties in approving this agreement.
As for the second, on money laundering, Kazakhstan is also interested in passing this law, and I think we will pass it without any delay.
Ambassador Hoagland:  Thank you very much for those excellent replies.
First of all, asking for the United States to support regional integration, you don’t have to ask for our support.  That is our foreign policy.  Any appropriate way that we can help your government with this, we are ready to help.
For Jackson-Vanick, I completely, one hundred percent understand your concern about that, and there is a way forward.  The World Trade Organization.  As soon as we have a bilateral agreement between Kazakhstan and the United States, Congress will approve that agreement, and that automatically opens the door to remove Jackson-Vanick.
I will openly admit that the original purpose of Jackson-Vanick was something else, but our Congress now has applied Jackson-Vanick to trade issues.  So the key to that door is the World Trade Organization.
The question of certification.  As Kazakhstan continues its democratic process, this will become less of an issue.  I think that on the path to Europe, as Kazakhstan takes it seriously, these new amendments you have just passed, other steps that will be taken, will help remove, eventually, the certification process.
But something else that will be useful, I believe, is as you already noted, the group, Friends of Kazakhstan on Capitol Hill.  In our system, like in many systems around the world, the power of outside lobbyists can very strongly influence legislation in our Congress. 
For example, there is a very strong Armenian lobby in our Congress.  There’s a very strong Indian lobby in our Congress.  That’s one of the reasons that these two countries get very positive legislation from the United States. 
Finally, as regards the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, I understand that this is becoming a priority for Kazakhstan, and I will recommend to my government that we look at beginning this process.  Our Congress, in fact, has to authorize starting negotiations for a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty.  So I will make the recommendation to my government, but also I would recommend that your Ambassador, Yerlan Idrissov, start talking to members of Congress who are responsible for this area.  But Ambassador Idrissov is a very active Ambassador, so please don’t tell him that I recommended that he do even more work.  [Laughter]. 
Speaker Mukhamedzhanov:  Thank you, Ambassador, for the meeting during which we had a very useful discussion and exchange of opinions.  We see that we have same or similar points of views on practically all issues.  In the beginning of the New Year, I want to wish you health and big success in fulfilling your mission in Kazakhstan. 
Ambassador Hoagland:  Thank you very much for your New Year’s wishes.  I wish you and your family and your government health, happiness, and wealth in the New Year.

Ambassador's Remarks