Customs relations between the countries of the Central Asian region very illustratively demonstrate disharmony in relations in general and in many respects - the state of the countries themselves. According to the director of the Center for Analysis of Social Problems, Meruert Makhmutova, despite the initiatives of countries for regional cooperation, trade within the region remains limited. The main reasons are the persistence of restrictions in the free trade regime, the lack of coordination in trade operations against third countries and a system of collective protective measures. Within the framework of regional initiatives, the foreign trade, customs, monetary, financial and tax legislation of its participants remained unified. The issues of coordination of positions when the parties to the agreements join the WTO also remain unresolved.
According to Ms. Makhmutova, the countries of the region are involved in many regional trade agreements that contain conflicting obligations. There are many barriers associated with trade policy, with transport, transit, which significantly reduce the level of economic interaction between the countries of the region. The high level of corruption in all countries is also one of the major reasons hindering cooperation. In addition, customs relations are complicated by a number of factors such as geography, migration flows, and drug traffic. For example, the border of Kazakhstan with Russia is the longest in the world (7.5 thousand km), migrants from all of Central Asia, including Afghanistan, move through it. The Kazakh-Russian cordon, by the way, is twice as long as the US-Mexico border. Meanwhile, the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan is only 426 km. - it is probably the most peaceful of this state. The most problematic remains the Kazakh-Uzbek - the information space in the country and, of course, the population is regularly shaken by the news about the killed, wounded, beaten by the Uzbek border guards of Kazakhstani people - shepherds, residents of border areas. Against this background, trade problems are perceived in an understandable way, when Uzbekistan restricts imports from Kazakhstan and its exports, mainly vegetables and fruits, which leads to even greater inflation.
The most active customs border is with Kyrgyzstan and China. But even here problems regularly arise - formally because of the procedures, in fact - according to rumors - because of the redistribution of spheres of influence. First of all, because the Kazakh-Kyrgyz and Kazakh-Chinese borders are a “tidbit”: export oil and metals, imported consumer goods, building materials, equipment.
Permanent attempts to create in Central Asia - a zone of free or light trade - our response to the European Union or the WTO - within the framework of the Customs Union, EurAsEC - has remained attempts. According to Ms. Makhmutova, “despite the initiatives of countries for regional cooperation, trade within the region remains limited. The main reasons are the persistence of restrictions in the free trade regime, the lack of coordination in trade operations against third countries and a system of collective protective measures. Within the framework of regional initiatives, the foreign trade, customs, monetary, financial and tax legislation of its participants remained unified. The issues of coordination of positions when the parties to the agreements join the WTO also remain unresolved. ”
There are too many contradictions between the countries - a closed and neutral Turkmenistan, an unpredictable and somewhat aggressive Uzbekistan, torn between great neighbors Kyrgyzstan, the giants China and Russia. As a result, trade between countries is sometimes more complicated than, for example, with the United States or Germany, the “rules of the game” are not unified, and the customs clearance procedure itself (sometimes it seems) is so complicated as to stimulate corruption.
According to Meruert Makhmutova, the countries of the region are involved in many regional trade agreements that contain conflicting obligations. There are many barriers associated with trade policy, with transport, transit, which significantly reduce the level of economic interaction between the countries of the region. The high level of corruption in all countries is also one of the major reasons hindering cooperation.
According to the draft of the Regional Strategic Document for the European Region dated June 15, 2006, in Kazakhstan, for example, it takes approximately 93 days to transport standard cargo from the factory gate to the nearest export port, taking into account all customs, administrative and export requirements. It takes an average of 139 days to import standard cargo. Meanwhile, according to the Analysis of the International Finance Corporation and the World Bank (2006), every day of the delay reduces the country's exports by 1%. In particular, long delays also make it impossible to export perishable agricultural products such as meat, fruits and vegetables.
In connection with the expected entry into the WTO of all countries in the region, there is hope for an improvement in customs relations. At the last meeting of the World Customs Organization in June 2005, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan (the only WTO member in Central Asia) and Tajikistan announced their intention to create customs control standards to protect the trade chain from organized crime and improve the administrative capacity of customs services.
Ms. Makhmutova believes that in order to achieve tangible benefits, regional trade agreements should focus on reducing tariff and non-tariff barriers, removing barriers to transit trade and co-financing in infrastructure development projects. The structure of trade of countries can be distinguished by groups of goods that are in demand in the region, but imported from third countries. Although Central Asia has enough potential to meet demand. Already identified six categories of goods with high and medium demand for regional trade. These include: food and processed agricultural products (wheat, tomatoes, fresh apples); chemicals (Portland anthracite, alumina); textiles and ready-made clothes; iron and steel products; vehicles and automotive components (batteries, tractors, buses, cars); heavy industry equipment (compressors, combines, cranes, transformers).
The Center for Analysis of Social Problems believes that in developing the region’s trade potential, it is important that governments create conditions for private sector participation. All sectors with high intra-regional export potential may be of interest to private business and international aid agencies. In particular, the sector of food and processed products of agriculture, wheat and flour are defined as sectors with high potential. Of interest may be construction sites, cement and steel reinforcement from the sector of chemicals and iron and steel products. From the side of international aid agencies, there is a high demand for textiles, usually for clothes, blankets, tents and other temporary shelter products. The region produces and has the potential to produce textiles. Throughout the territory there is a need for vehicles, such as heavy equipment for water pumps and electric generators. These are products that can be promoted with a view to increasing the level of intraregional trade, while at the same time allowing international aid agencies to take advantage of this opportunity to provide supplies. At the same time, Ms. Makhmutova adds that countries need to take full advantage of participation in regional unions and not violate the agreements they have accepted, imposing unreasonable restrictions on mutual trade, protecting, often, uncompetitive industries. The governments of each country need to actually ensure that national legislation is in accordance with the agreements concluded and obligations undertaken within the region, as well as with international conventions. The work of all services present at the border should be analyzed to reduce duplication of functions, simplify customs, border and other control procedures, and find the most effective forms.