Fully half of Uzbekistan’s exports go to just four markets: Russia, China, Kazakhstan and Turkey.
Addressing government officials on January 18, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said that needs to change, especially since those countries have been battered to varying degrees by economic fluctuations.
“Due to devaluation in countries that are our main markets, as well as conflicts in the world and logistics, exports to [those countries] have diminished,” Mirziyoyev was quoted as saying by his press secretary, Sherzod Asadov.
Mirziyoyev said that the target going forward should be to increase the overall volume of exports by 30 percent annually.
The timer has been set for Jamshid Khodjayev, the deputy prime minister with the portfolio for investment and foreign trade, to start putting Uzbekistan on that path.
“If he does not make changes by the end of this quarter, his suitability for that position will be reconsidered,” Mirziyoyev said.
To show he was serious, the president gave deputy Investment, Industry and Trade Minister Badriddin Abidov the chop on January 18, citing shortcomings in his work. Mirziyoyev also fired numerous local officials who he said had allowed foreign trade done by their regions to decline.
Official data for January-November 2023 show that Uzbekistan’s trade turnover increased by 26.2 percent, up to $57.3 billion, compared to the same period the year before. Of that total, $23.2 billion were exports.
China accounts for 21.3 percent of trade, but exports to China dropped by 9.6 percent (to $2.3 billion) over that 11-month period. That trend has been caused to a considerable degree by the reduced amounts of natural gas that Uzbekistan is able to sell abroad.
Mirziyoyev has attributed failure to advance the export agenda to inefficiencies in the system.
The presidential administration says that $200 million have been set aside as export credits, but that the officials responsible for overseeing the allocation of these resources have not been up to the job.
Prospective exporters are also failing to do their bit. There were 31 enterprises that received a total of 4.5 billion sums ($360,000) of financial support last year to help implement international certification protocols, but they failed to export any goods, Mirziyoyev’s office said.
In another bureaucratic shake-up, the Export Promotion Agency — a body created in late 2018 that Mirziyoyev dismissively described as a bean-counter that arbitrarily hands out money — will be replaced by something called the Trade Development Company, which will operate within the framework of World Trade Organization requirements.
Uzbekistan is currently in the process of seeking accession to the WTO.
Under the incoming dispensation, only exporters able to show that they propose to go to foreign markets with high value-added products will be eligible for subsidies, loans and other forms of assistance from the yet-to-be-created Trade Development Company.