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Central Asia

EU trade relations with Central Asia. Facts, figures and latest developments.

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Central Asia
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Central Asia is of geostrategic importance to the EU. The region represents a bridge to China,  Afghanistan and the Middle East. It is a source of significant energy imports for the EU.

Central Asia: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan

Central Asian countries share some common features: they are landlocked, their exports focus on raw materials, and they all face significant influence from neighbouring powers, namely Russia or China. Yet they significantly differ from one another in terms of wealth and trade volumes with the EU. Despite some economic growth in recent years, Central Asian countries remain characterised by a low level of economic diversification and a high dependence on a relatively small number of trade partners.

Three of the five Central Asian countries (Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) benefit from favourable access to the EU market, through the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) or GSP+. While Tajikistan meets the standard GSP criteria, the Kyrgyz Republic and Uzbekistan have also joined the EU’s GSP+ arrangement, which grants additional preferences. Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, as upper middle income-level economies, can no longer benefit from this scheme.

Two Central Asian countries are also members of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU): Kazakhstan since 2010 and the Kyrgyz Republic since 2015. Uzbekistan became an EAEU observer in 2020.

Trade picture

EU trade with Central Asia has grown and the EU is now the region’s main trade partner, accounting for about a third of its overall external trade. Nevertheless, the total turnover of the EU's trade with Central Asia remains low.

  • Central Asian exports to the EU largely focus on a few commodities, particularly crude oil, gas, metals and cotton fibre.
  • EU exports are dominated by machinery and transport equipment, and other manufactured goods. Such products account for more than half of EU exports to the region.

The EU and Central Asia

The EU adopted a New Central Asia Strategy in 2019, which focuses on the following three pillars: increased resilience, regional cooperation and prosperity.

The overall institutional framework for the EU's cooperation with the region is as follows:

  • Partnership and Cooperation Agreements (PCAs) govern the EU's bilateral trade relations with the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
    • In terms of trade, these are non-preferential agreements – ensuring most-favoured nation treatment and prohibiting quantitative restrictions in bilateral trade.
    • The PCAs envisage progressive regulatory approximation of the partner countries' legislation and practices to the most important EU trade-related standards including technical regulations, sanitary and phytosanitary requirements, protection of intellectual property rights, and customs issues. This should lead to better access to the EU market for goods originating in those countries.
  • The EU's bilateral trade relations with Kazakhstan are covered by an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA) signed in Astana on 21 December 2015. It entered into force on 1 March 2020. This new agreement, which constitutes the first of its kind signed by the EU with one of its Central Asian partners, elevates relations between the EU and Kazakhstan to a new level.
  • A Partnership and Cooperation Agreement concluded with Turkmenistan in 1998 is yet to be ratified by all EU Member States. Pending ratification, an Interim Agreement on trade and trade-related matters entered into force on 1 August 2010. Other areas of cooperation remain based on the Trade and Cooperation Agreement signed with the Soviet Union in 1989 and subsequently endorsed by Turkmenistan.
  • The EU has concluded an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the Kyrgyz Republic, which is now pending signature.
  • The EU is negotiating an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA) with Uzbekistan. Round reports and draft texts

WTO membership

WTO membership of all the Central Asian countries is a pre-condition for closer trade and investment relations with the EU.

  • Kyrgyzstan has been a WTO member since 1998.
  • Tajikistan became a WTO member in 2013.
  • Kazakhstan became a WTO member in 2015.
  • In June 2019, Uzbekistan expressed a renewed commitment to join the WTO in the near future.
  • Turkmenistan was granted observer status in 2020.

Committees and Dialogues

The EU and Central Asia meet regularly to discuss issues and best practices and oversee the proper functioning of the agreement.

Trading with Central Asia

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