2009 Programs and Events
Ambassador Explores Commercial Developments in Navoi
U.S. Ambassador Richard Norland met with leaders of the Navoi Region and visited factories, industrial headquarters and the new Free Industrial Economic Zone in Navoi city with an eye toward expanding business opportunities.
His visit came as officials of the Government of Uzbekistan and business leaders are implementing plans to expand infrastructure and economic incentives to attract investment in the Navoi Region. The Navoi International Airport will soon include a logistical and distribution center in an effort to establish a regional air cargo hub. The Free Industrial Economic Zone (FIEZ) adjacent to the airport is an ambitious plan to attract foreign investment through tax incentives, simplified customs procedures and relaxed foreign-labor requirements.
“It has real potential, and it’s quite a vision,” Norland said of the FIEZ, adding that he was pleased to see that businesses such as U.S.-based General Motors have expressed a preliminary interest in using the FIEZ.
These infrastructure developments, and the fact that the Navoi Region is an engine of the economy of Uzbekistan because of its mining and industrial resources, made Norland want to see the area for himself, he said. Norland noted that while the U.S. and Uzbekistan have reached agreements to use the Navoi airport and transportation systems of Uzbekistan for commercial transit of non-lethal military goods to Afghanistan, that is only one part of a larger potential for economic cooperation and improved transportation infrastructure.
“The discussion on military issues is a harbinger of the broader economic and commercial cooperation that this region needs,” Norland said. He noted that discussion of extending railroad lines from the border of Uzbekistan to Afghanistan’s northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif – where it would link with the highway system connected to South Asia -- would not only benefit Afghanistan, but the economies of Uzbekistan and the rest of Central Asia. “For economic development of the region, we need more access to ports and markets. It’s in everyone’s interest.”
Norland met with Navoi Region Hokim (Governor) Erkinjon Turdimov and Azamat Avezov, the director of the FIEZ. In recent months, workers have put in a road, water and gas lines and an administration building as they begin construction of the FIEZ. The zone will eventually have a railway branch, docks for trucks, fire protection and logistical support.
He then visited the Kizilkum Cement Factory, said to be the largest cement factory in the former Soviet Union, which produces about 3 million tons of cement a year. Norland noted that the U.S. military is seeking to purchase more products produced in Uzbekistan for the efforts in Afghanistan.
“This factory has enormous potential,” he said. “My hope would be that American and Afghan contractors could draw on these resources to complete projects in Afghanistan.”
He also met with leaders of the Navoiazot Chemical Plant and the Navoi Mining and Metallurgy Combinat, one of the 10 largest producers of uranium and gold in the world. Norland also visited the 3,000-year-old petroglyphs in the Sarmysh Gorge northeast of Navoi city.
Since becoming Ambassador in September 2007, Ambassador Norland has visited 12 of the 14 administrative regions of Uzbekistan and plans to visit the remaining two in the coming months.