First Caspian Economic Forum May Help Bring Turkmenistan Into The Belt & Road Initiative

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The first Caspian Economic Forum is currently being held in Turkmenbashi City in Turkmenistan, in moves that might encourage the isolated nation to engage more in international trade. If so, the future of Turkmenistan could alter significantly – the national oil and gas reserves are estimated at over 20 billion tons of oil and over 50 trillion cubic meters of natural gas. Today, Turkmenistan holds the world’s fourth-largest proven natural gas reserves. The country has untapped economic potential and is moving slowly to introduce economic and business reforms. Russian energy companies have already expressed interest in developing Turkmenistan’s resources.

The first Caspian Economic Forum will give an extra impetus to cooperation in spheres of trade, investment and tourism, which will promote turning of the Caspian Region into one of the largest global transportation and transit hubs. That impacts directly on China’s Belt & Road Initiative as well as giving a boost to Central Asia.

Turkemenistan is one of Central Asia’s most insular states, but like neighboring Uzbekistan is showing signs of interest in opening up its economy, and at least improving regional diplomatic and trade ties. Unlike many of its neighbors it has refrained from officially joining the majority of formal regional institutions such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Eurasian Economic Union or the Commonwealth of Independent States, although it does often take an associate or observer position, preferring to maintain a neutral stance.

It does however have a long stretch of the Caspian Sea and is a signatory to the Caspian Sea Agreement, in which the five bordering nations have jointly developed a policy on how to manage the resource. Turkmenistan views the Caspian Sea in regional and interregional geopolitical and geo-economic strategic terms, including its role as an important transit-transport and logistics hub. The Turkmen Government regards “The development of constructive cooperation with the Caspian region states as the principle position and in this regard is among the priority vectors of foreign policy course of Turkmenistan.”

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