Uzbekistan: More Energy Deals as China’s President Tours Central Asia
China’s president clinched another round of multi-billion-dollar oil and gas deals in Uzbekistan on September 9 as he continued vacuuming up the region’s energy resources on his tour of Central Asia.Xi Jinping and his Uzbek counterpart Islam Karimov signed agreements worth $15 billion in Tashkent, AFP reported. Details were not immediately released, but the report said the deals included contracts in the oil and gas industry, where Sino-Uzbek economic cooperation has been expanding since Uzbekistan started exporting gas to China in September 2012, and also agreements in the uranium sector, which Tashkent is eager to develop.Other deals covering trade, energy, investment and financing were also signed, a report on the People’s Daily website added. Uzbek media, which are notoriously slow to react to events, had not reported the deals by late evening on September 9; neither had the presidential or Foreign Ministry websites.During his visit Xi called for China and Uzbekistan to boost bilateral trade, which stood at $3.4 billion last year, to $5 billion by 2017. Xi suggested opening negotiations to set up a Sino-Uzbek free trade zone, and looking at measures to promote infrastructure connectivity between the two countries, which do not share a direct border but are linked via Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan.Xi has already bagged some lucrative energy and investment deals in Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan during his Central Asia tour, signing $30 billion worth of agreements in Astana and agreeing in Ashgabat to roughly triple Turkmen gas exports to China by 2020. Xi is to visit Samarkand with Karimov on September 10, then head to Kyrgyzstan. He will end his tour in Bishkek, where he is scheduled to attend a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on September 13.
Joanna Lillis is a journalist based in Almaty and author of Dark Shadows: Inside the Secret World of Kazakhstan.
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