By Andriy Tsintsiruk
WASHINGTON, Jan. 26, 2012 http://www.prnewswire.com
The United States' continued efforts to counter terrorism and secure reliable logistical networks for troops in Afghanistan have been a dominating factor in U.S.-Uzbekistan relations. Further, fluctuating U.S.-Pakistan relations have shifted the U.S. military's focus to Afghanistan's northern neighbor, Uzbekistan, which is a strategically important country for the viability of the Northern Distribution Network (NDN) and is a lifeline to our military presence in Afghanistan. As the U.S. troops are scheduled to leave Afghanistan by 2014, the U.S. Government proposed the idea of allowing the U.S. private sector in Central Asia to take the lead and solidify greater economic opportunities and benefits for the U.S. strategic interests in the region. However, the ultimate success of these efforts depends on the readiness of the American public and its legislators to provide the strong broad-based political support that will make U.S. businesses more competitive and assertive.
As the country with the largest population in Central Asia (28.1 million), Uzbekistan has been on the destination map for U.S. exports since the early 1990s with $500 million in U.S. investments. The U.S. private sector's operations and its long-term investments in Uzbekistan are an unspoken guarantee that the U.S. is committed to maintaining its economic presence beyond the NDN and beyond 2014. Securing a broad-based support, therefore, will not only expand the bilateral commercial ties but also will strengthen the U.S. geopolitical competitiveness vis-a-vis established regional powers that seek to dominate Central Asia's strategically important marketplace. Furthermore, boosting the United States' commercial presence can increase U.S. exports, generate more domestic jobs and strengthen political partnerships in an environment where America needs more friends than nemeses. In this regard, the soft power of the globally-recognized U.S. brands and products should not be underestimated. Every day young people in Uzbekistan are ever more influenced by the transformational power of global interconnectedness that comes with exposure to globally-recognized American brands such as Apple's iPhones, Google, and social networking sites like Facebook. These products project a positive image of America and are a symbol of innovation and competitiveness.
The United States and Uzbekistan have made significant progress in their bilateral relations based on the NDN cooperation. Accordingly, the U.S. should seek to capitalize further on these achievements by promoting stronger bilateral trade and investment between the United States, Uzbekistan, and the broader Central Asia region. More specifically, the U.S. private sector's increased presence and participation in Uzbekistan and Central Asia can contribute positively to the United States' long-term political and economic interests. In other words, the American economy and the American people will only benefit greatly from further expansion of bilateral trade, investments, and economic partnerships in the region. "Use it'; Don't lose it" is an appeal to those involved at the executive and legislative offices, as well as to the American public, to keep in mind the long-term benefits that this bilateral economic partnership has to offer.