It is a pity that there is no such clarity about the US investments into the agro-industrial sector. Nevertheless, Kazakhstan is a strategic and significant partner for the USA, and US companies are ready for long-term investment projects here.
The main task now is to strengthen ties, promote further co-operation. US companies believe in Kazakhstan so much that they have already invested 12 billion USD into it, reports Trend.
"There are more than one hundred ventures with foreign participation in the republic," - such were the words with which March Johanns, US Secretary of Agriculture, opened a press conference on results of his visit to Kazakhstan.
Mr. Johanns visited our country as a head of a delegation including representatives of nearly twenty big companies and organizations working in agriculture. Among them, for instance, there is the National Meat Association and the US Rice Producers Association. However, both their interest towards the Kazakhstani agrarian sector and his words about big US investments in Kazakhstan have only abstract relation to our agriculture.
Everybody knows that the US as any other foreign investments are directed mainly into the production of oil and partially into the extraction of other mineral resources. But not into our farming anyway.
Obviously, the Kazakhstani agricultural market, at least presently, is too small for being interesting for such agro-industrial giant as the USA.
It was indirectly confirmed also by John Ordway, US ambassador to Kazakhstan, who has stated that the US share in the import of agricultural equipment by Kazakhstan last year amounted to only about 34 million USD - one tenth of the total volume of import.
Let's say that it's not too much. And although a wish was expressed at the press conference that the share should grow, the situation is unlikely to change too much - China with its rapidly developing agricultural mechanical engineering is too close.
Moreover, the WTO is not too far, so the Chinese products of all types are going to flow in large quantities into our market. By the way during the press conference it seemed that the US delegation had arrived not so much to develop agricultural co-operation, as to study some wider commercial issues.
Both Secretary Johanns and his Kazakhstani counterpart Akhmetzhan Yessimov more often mentioned the WTO at the press conference, than the agriculture itself.
The US Secretary stated repeatedly that the USA supported the accession of Kazakhstan to the WTO and that "its terms are not related with results of the negotiations between the USA and Russia on the same issue" (Moscow and Astana earlier stated that there was a necessity of their synchronous accession to the World Trade Organisation.)
Washington not only still supports the accession of Kazakhstan to the WTO, but it is also going to do its best to provide that this agreement is signed "very, very shortly." By the way, the American Secretary was quite optimistic also about the accession of Russia to the WTO.
So what about the agriculture? Can we expect a big flow of US capitals and technologies into the Kazakhstani agriculture?
- We have discussed with Mr. Yessimov development of an agreement on broadening our co-operation in agricultural technologies. Our people have already started to work on this document, but such documents, of course, cannot be prepared in one day, - Mr. Johanns observed.
Commenting on a question from Kazakhstani journalists - why the US investments in fifteen years have not reached the agriculture of Kazakhstan, Mr. Ordawy said that the agriculture had much lesser potential profitability in comparison with the oil & gas industry. Therefore, the investors must have a much bigger degree of the risk management when principal decisions are made. Kazakhstan has reduced these risks significantly during the last fifteen years of reforms.
- However, to attract investments to such areas as the agriculture that are not particularly distinguished as highly profitable unlike oil & gas, a lot of work and efforts will be needed. But the time has come and now we are ready to make such decisions, - the diplomat said.
Akhmetzhan Yessimov also considered it necessary to comment on that issue. The agrarian sector in the whole world is one of the most conservative, he reminded, but during the last few years serious reforms have changed this situation, such as the adoption of private property for agricultural land with conservation of 49 year lease rights boosted confidence in the sector.
"Investments have been made into this area, loans of the second level banks to agricultural producers have tripled during these years; only last year around 1 billion USD. The tendency towards a decrease of the per capita power consumption was arrested, it had grown 16% during the last year. There were only 20% of profitable farms, today there are 66%. It all interests both foreign and local investors," - our minister said.
However, it is doubtful that serious US investments would go into the Kazakhstani village: Kazakhstan is more interesting for the Americans as a market for the readymade US products.
The USA is always fighting for such promising markets, let us remember the trade war two years ago when Russia cut the import of the so called "Bush Legs."
Therefore, the access to our market already as a part of the WTO has always been a dominating theme for Washington in comparison with the investments.