The United States is working to bring Afghanistan in as an observer nation to the Trade and Investment Framework Agreements (TIFA), said the US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells while speaking about the new US Central Asia strategy at The Heritage Foundation in Washington DC.
“Through our trade and investment framework agreement, for instance, we have worked to bring Afghanistan in as an observer country...that’s something we are working towards so that we can create and support a 100 million person market,” said Wells.
Wells noted that the US has been steadfast in its commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Central Asian states since they achieved independence 28 years ago.
Speaking at the same event, Lisa Curtis, the deputy assistant to US president Donald Trump, and senior director for South and Central Asia on the National Security Council described Central Asia as ‘geostrategic’ and said that the region could play a key role in Afghanistan’s stability.
“I think while we have seen such support to the Afghanistan peace process from the Central Asian nations is because they know what happens in Afghanistan directly impacts their own security. Ambassador Khalilzad, our senior representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, has very much made… to engage with the Central Asian states on his negotiations with the Taliban, with the Afghans and he made several trips to central Asia,” said Lisa Curtis.
The top US diplomat also said that Washington wants to bring Afghanistan in the C5+1 group of countries;
What is C5+1?
C5+1 is a format for dialogue and a platform for joint efforts to address common challenges faced by the United States and the five Central Asian states. It complements bilateral relationships in the region, particularly in issue areas where regional approaches may provide a comparative advantage. At the first C5+1 ministerial, held in Samarkand in November 2015, the six foreign ministers agreed to focus on three sectors of common interest – security, with a focus on terrorist threats; economics, with a focus on improving regional trade flows and prospects for U.S. trade and investment; and environmental challenges. They also agreed to form working groups for each sector and to focus on achieving practical results. At the second C5+1 ministerial, held in Washington in August 2016, the six ministers agreed to launch five projects across these three sectors, funded by a $15 million appropriation from the U.S. Congress.
In addition, Gloria D. Steele, the Acting Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for Asia for USAID, said that Washington is committed to helping with the transfer of goods through the Lapis Lazuli corridor to the European markets and the support for the implementation of CASA-1000 power project.
CASA-1000 is a major power project that transfers 300 megawatts of electricity from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“CASA-1000 ...exports surplus hydro power from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and this is a really important way of promoting economic growth in these three countries,” said Steele.
Wells commenting on the Taliban and current peace talks: “In terms of Afghanistan, I think it is important to note that our approach to Afghanistan is conditions-based, our ability to achieve peace in Afghanistan is ultimately based on the Taliban’s willingness to …eliminate the prospect of Afghanistan's being used as a platform for terrorism against our friends and against the United States.”
Trade and Investment Framework Agreements (TIFAs) provide strategic frameworks and principles for dialogue on trade and investment issues between the United States and the other parties to the TIFA.
The United States and TIFA partners consult on a wide range of issues related to trade and investment. Topics for consultation and possible further cooperation include market access issues, labor, the environment, protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, and, in appropriate cases, capacity building.