The United States trade representative ambassador Katherine Tai engaged in negotiations with President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev and other officials in Tashkent on 11 June.

The parties discussed Uzbekistan’s accession to the WTO, the resumption of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), and enhancing cooperation within “C5+1” framework (Central Asia + the US) and the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) between the US and the countries of the region, as reported by to the press service of the head of state.

Additionally, they noted the importance of launching a joint platform to identify new sectors and promote industrial cooperation projects.

The US GSP (Generalized System of Preferences), established in 1974, offers trade preferences on a range of goods to developing countries to aid their economic development. The program allows the duty-free import of 3,500 goods from 119 countries and beneficiary territories into the US. Uzbekistan was granted GSP beneficiary status in August 1994. On 31 December 2020, preferences were suspended for all countries, and it is up to the US Congress to reactivate the system.

Photo: Ministry of Investment, Industry and Trade (MIIT).Photo: Ministry of Investment, Industry and Trade (MIIT).

At the meeting between Katherine Tai and minister of investment, industry and trade of Uzbekistan Laziz Kudratov, the state of trade and economic cooperation between Uzbekistan and the US was discussed, and measures to increase trade turnover and activate Uzbekistan’s accession to the WTO were outlined, the MIIT’s press service reported.

The US trade representative highlighted support for the efforts of the US Congress to activate and update the GSP program, and acknowledged the role of GSP in supporting diversification of exports from Uzbekistan.

Both sides also expressed mutual willingness to cooperate on harmonizing legislation to promote digital trade.

“Katherine Tai expressed full support of the US for Uzbekistan’s commitment to WTO accession, and, on behalf of the US delegation, conveyed her readiness to support reforms aimed at aligning Uzbekistan’s trade regime with WTO rules and principles,” the statement read.

Moreover, the ambassador congratulated Uzbekistan on its removal from the Special 301 Watch List “due to steady improvement in the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights”, the report mentioned. The parties expressed readiness to continue close cooperation in this area.

“It was emphasized that transparency and mutual consultation contribute to the development of more effective regulations, prevent and reduce non-tariff barriers, support compliance with international trade obligations, and are necessary to enhance the long-term sustainability of the economy and attract sustainable investment,” the MIIT shared in a statement.

Photo: Ministry of Employment and Poverty Reduction.Photo: Ministry of Employment and Poverty Reduction.

Katherine Tai also held a meeting with minister of employment and poverty reduction Behzod Musaev, the ministry’s press service reported.

The US trade representative noted Uzbekistan’s achievements in the labor sector since 2017, including efforts to eliminate forced labor and end child labor, as well as remove Uzbekistan’s cotton from the “List of Goods Produced by Child Labor and Forced Labor”.

Furthermore, in 2020, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) completed the GSP worker rights eligibility review of Uzbekistan, and kept the country’s trade benefits under the program unchanged. In 2022, the international Cotton Campaign coalition lifted its boycott of Uzbekistan’s cotton.

The dialogue highlighted Uzbekistan’s active cooperation with the US Department of Labor, the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), and the Solidarity Center in creating decent working conditions in various spheres, ensuring and improving labor legislation, thereby introducing international labor standards.

Katherine Tai shared that the US government is currently developing a new trade policy that prioritizes workers' rights. Accordingly, she expressed readiness to cooperate on the early identification of forced labor risks, support for trade union activities, and expansion of labor inspectors' powers.

As previously mentioned, Katherine Tai will also visit Samarkand during her visit to Uzbekistan. Later, she will participate in a meeting of the board of the TIFA between the US and Central Asian countries in Astana.