Report on 16th annual Silk Road Conference

China seeks expansion of trade routes
with Central Asian countries

By Frank Bennett Rowder

Chicago — Delegates from Central Asian countries continued to explore new financial and trade markets during the 16th annual Silk Road Conference held at the Kent College of Law recently.

Although many countries were once Republics in the Soviet Union prior to its collapse 25 years ago, they have managed to successfully make the transition from a Marxist to Free Market economy. Best testimonial is the establishment of economic corridors already leading to new highway, railways and oil and gas pipelines.

Make no mistake, China had played a key role in the making of the Silk Road, going as far back as the Han dynasty (207-220BCE.) when it derived its name from lucrative trade in Chinese silk. It still remains an ancient network of trade routes that were central to cultural interaction through regions connecting the West and East from China to the Mediterranean Sea.

The Chinese government wants to expand the corridors, which will involve transport routes to key cities and ports covering Asia, Europe and Africa, including establishment of an ‘Eurasia Land bridge.’ Look for more movement between China-Mongolia-Russia and other countries in the mix.

Here are some of the highlights of the Silk Road Conference:

Azerbaijan: First Secretary Vugar Gurbanov stated his country continues to be an emerging hub in Central Eurasia by leading in the development of the Southern Gas Corridor, a $160 billion investment since 1991. Six countries will eventually be part of the Corridor that will eventually end in Southeast Italy.

Kazakhstan: Counselor Nurgali Arystanov indicated his country had signed a Dynamic Strategic Partnership calling for a $2.8 billion investment by the U.S. American companies currently operating in that country include Starbucks, McDonalds, KFC, Burger King , Netflix and Uber. Citibank and Chevron are expected to follow.

Pakistan: Faisal Niaz Tirmizi, Consulate General of Pakistan in Chicago, expressed
optimism about going business with IMF, World Bank, Bloomberg and international credit rating agencies such as Moody’s and S & P. He said the ‘economic corridor’ is leading toward new highways and railrways, oil and gas pipelines.

Uzbekistan: Continues to move toward a socially democratic state with a free market economy. The Uzbek model has called for a diverse economy ,and has business deals with 45 countries, including United States, China, Japan and the European Union.

Turkey: The country has experienced moderate economic growth due to rise of terrorism in that country, Syrian conflict and Russia’s economic downturn. Nevertheless, Mehmet Baha Karan stressed that Turkey wants zero problems with its neighbors and looking toward Iran’s entry into the global market. Karan is Professor of Finance at Turkey’s Hacettepe University.

Rowder is an associate board member of the Central Asian Productivity Center, sponsors of the 2016 Silk Road Conference. He is also serves on the Chicago Journalists Association Board of Directors.