Xinjiang plays an important role in the cooperation between Kazakhstan and China
(Photo: Kazakh Prime Minister’s press service)

Kazakhstan and China are stepping up their cooperation. Xinjiang in western China, as an important transit region for the Eurasian trade and freight corridor, where the border ports of Khorgos and Alashankou are located, plays a key role in the cooperation between the two countries. In addition to the logistics projects, the two sides are planning more interactions and exchanges in the economic, cultural and educational fields.

Kazakh Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade and Integration Serik Zhumangarin and Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Communist Party Secretary Ma Xingrui discussed prospects for strengthening cooperation and overcoming emerging obstacles in Urumqi, the prime minister’s press office reported on 21 August according to The Astana Times.

As the western gate of China, Xinjiang plays a crucial role in the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, Ma  Xingrui said. Last year, Xinjiang’s total trade turnover reached 246 billion yuan ($33.8 billion), including 119 billion yuan ($16.3 billion) with Central Asian countries.

Ma emphasised the importance of strengthening connectivity between the parties, noting that all border checkpoints and flights between Almaty and Urumqi have resumed operations.

“The efficiency of cargo traffic is increasing; the Khorgos checkpoint is working around the clock. The two sides have launched a green corridor for the transit of agricultural products,” he said, encouraging the deepening of trade and economic cooperation in rail and road transport, the establishment of new logistics centres and the increase in the frequency of flights.

Ma also suggested establishing cultural exchanges, creating an international business environment to attract entrepreneurs from Kazakhstan, and investing in Xinjiang and vice versa.

“We are interested in strengthening cultural and tourism ties and increasing the number of free education quotas for Kazakh students in Xinjiang,” Ma said.

For his part, Zhumangarin expressed a willingness to develop logistics, referring to the implementation of a logistics terminal project in Urumqi, which will become a cargo consolidator. He stressed the importance of increasing air cargo and passenger traffic, as well as e-commerce.

“During the China-Central Asia Summit, we decided to build a dry port in Xi’an. … There is no need to limit our cooperation only to the development of railway and road crossings,” he said.

Zhumangarin also highlighted the forthcoming opening of the Lu Ban Workshop, a Chinese project to train technical specialists using advanced Chinese technologies, at a university in the East Kazakhstan region.

In the agricultural sector, Zhumangarin highlighted Xinjiang’s practical experience in water use and invited the Chinese side to share practices in irrigation, water saving and expenditure systems.

Zhumangarin stressed the need to remove barriers to trade relations, including restrictions on the export of Kazakh meat products to China due to animal disease concerns.

“The World Organisation for Animal Health has recommended that the foot-and-mouth-free status of five south-eastern zones of Kazakhstan be confirmed by vaccination. We have sent several invitations to conduct an audit of the Kazakh veterinary service and an inspection of Kazakh farms, but we have not yet received a response,” said Zhumangarin.

Following the meeting, the parties agreed to draw up a map of trade barriers in order to make joint efforts to remove them.

Last week, more than 40 Kazakh companies showcased their products at the China-Eurasia Expo international exhibition in Urumqi.

The Region of Xinjiang accounts for nearly 40% of all trade between Kazakhstan and China. Trade turnover between Kazakhstan and Xinjiang reached $8.5 billion in January-June, an increase of 87.3% over the same period last year ($4.5 billion).

Exports from Kazakhstan to Xinjiang in the first six months increased by 36.5% to $6.1 billion, while imports from Xinjiang to Kazakhstan increased by 2.2 times to $6.2 billion.